On Friday, December 20, Uganda’s parliament passed an anti-homosexuality bill that puts “repeat offenders” at risk of life in prison. The decision is in line with the country’s extreme homophobic reputation, but LGBT activists, such as Frank Mugisha, have vowed to fight.
“We shall fight this bill up to the end. We are going to challenge the act in front of the court of law and we are also calling up to the president not to sign the law,” said Mugisha.
However, Mugisha added that President Yoweri Museveni, a devout evangelical Christian, is likely to sign the bill, citing the pressure coming from the churches and community; he has also expressed agreement with the measure in the past.
“Members of parliament have shamed and embarrassed Uganda because they have shown their ignorance in passing this bill,” said Mugisha. “They showed how ignorant Uganda is.”
He added, “We are going to do a lot of campaigning in the media, in the press, with our allies, human rights organizations. When coming back from Christmas, we shall have a lot of support. We are also working with our legal team.”
Activists in Uganda are expecting support from the United States, the United Kingdom, and “most of the European countries.”
Prior to its passing parliament, President Barack Obama called the bill “odious”; South African social rights activist Desmond Tutu compared it to apartheid. Originally, the death penalty was also included as a possible punishment; consequently, the media began referring to it as the “Kill the Gays” bill.
With the spread of Christianity, Uganda’s homophobia has only grown stronger. Hate crimes are rampant, including reports of lesbians being targeted for “corrective” rapes. In 2011, activist David Kato was bludgeoned to death after a Ugandan newspaper printed his name in an article titled “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak.” It included a list of names, addresses, and photographs, along with a banner that read “Hang Them.”
Originally introduced in October of 2009 by parliament member David Bahti, the bill aims to “strengthen the nation’s capacity to deal with emerging internal and external threats to the traditional heterosexual family,” and to “protect the cherished culture of the people of Uganda, legal, religious, and traditional family values of the people of Uganda against attempts of sexual rights activists seeking to impose their values of sexual promiscuity on the people of Uganda.”
In order for it to become law, President Museveni must sign the bill within thirty days.