The President’s signature was confirmed on Twitter by both the Uganda Parliament and the Presidential Office. In March, parliament passed the “Anti-Homosexuality Law 2023”, which was heavily criticized internationally. However, Yoweri Museveni had expressed concerns that the law against same-sex relationships could be legally vulnerable and sent it back to Parliament. The President had expressed concerns that the law could be legally vulnerable. In its original version, the law would also have criminalized homosexuals who voluntarily seek medical treatment. In the meantime, the draft has been changed on a few points. MEPs approved the revised version in early May.
The new draft law makes it clear that calling yourself homosexual is not yet a criminal offence. Only “participation in homosexual acts” constitutes a crime that can be punished with life imprisonment. Contrary to the President’s request, Parliament stuck to the passage of declaring cases of “particularly serious homosexuality” to be a capital crime, meaning that repeat offenders could be punished with death.
What is meant by “particularly serious homosexuality” is, among other things, the sexual abuse of minors or the disabled by homosexual people. The death penalty will also apply to rape by homosexuals. The death penalty, although enshrined in Uganda’s constitution, has not been used for many years.
Harsh punishment for promoting homosexuality
Among other things, the new law provides for up to 20 years in prison for “knowingly promoting homosexuality”. This means that any form of positive or educational reporting about LGBT is declared illegal. The signed version no longer includes an originally planned six-month prison sentence for people who fail to report suspected homosexual acts to the police.
LGBT is the English abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. The variant LGBTQ is also often used. Other variants are LGBTQI or LGBTQIA+. Each letter represents one’s gender identity or sexual orientation.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni
Museveni has repeatedly agitated against the LGBT community in the past. Since the discussion surrounding the anti-homosexuality law flared up, human rights organizations have complained about the increase in violent attacks against LGBT members in the African country.
Strong criticism from abroad
The law has been sharply criticized internationally, including by the US, the EU, Germany and human rights groups. However, it enjoys broad public support in Uganda. Same-sex sex was still a punishable offense in Uganda during the colonial period. However, there has never been a conviction for consensual same-sex activity since independence in 1962.
The effects were felt even before the law was signed, says Ugandan LGBT activist Sam Ganafa. Hospitals would turn away homosexuals, fearing government harassment. “It’s sad news. Our people have to hide again,” Ganafa told the German Press Agency.
LGBT activists protest in South Africa in April against the Ugandan amendment
Several human rights organizations and activists have already announced that they intend to take legal action against the rules. “This law violates basic human rights and sets a dangerous precedent for discrimination and persecution against the LGBT community,” Ugandan LGBT activist Steven Kabuye told the Evangelical Press Service. A similar parliamentary push for an anti-homosexuality law was overturned by the constitutional court in 2014.
kle/qu (epd, afp, dpa)