Uganda criminalizes identifying as LGBTQ2, with death penalty for some offences

Legislators in Uganda have approved some of the world’s most aggressive anti-gay laws, making it illegal to even identify as an LGBTQ2 person.

Same-sex relations are already illegal in Uganda, though a bill passed by the country’s parliament on Tuesday would also ban promoting and abetting homosexuality, as well as conspiracy to engage in homosexuality, according to a Reuters report.

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Some offences for “aggravated homosexuality,” which involves gay sex with a minor or when the accused has a lifelong illness like HIV, can be punishable by death. Simply engaging in gay sex can result in life in prison.

Under the law, “attempted homosexuality” is also a criminal offence and punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

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The bill was passed with mass approval. Only a small group of lawmakers opposed the law.

The legislation still requires a signature from President Yoweri Museveni, who has long opposed LGBTQ2 rights, before it can become official law.

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Human Rights Watch said the Ugandan bill appears to be the first ever to criminalize simply identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer. The advocacy group is calling for the legislation to be struck down, as it inhibits one’s rights to “freedom of expression and association, liberty, privacy, equality, and freedom from discrimination and inhuman and degrading treatment.”

Many human rights activists have said the law would target gay Ugandans, who already face common threats of mob violence.

Under the new law, friends and family would have a duty to report suspected homosexual activity to police. It would also be illegal for individuals or institutions to support or financially fund LGBTQ2 rights organizations. Broadcasting, publishing or sharing any material that “promotes homosexuality” (including by journalists and news organizations) could lead to imprisonment.

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The 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced to the government by MP Asuman Basalirwa, who as per a CNN report, said the legislation would “protect our church culture; the legal, religious and traditional family values of Ugandans from the acts that are likely to promote sexual promiscuity in this country.”

More than 30 countries in Africa, including Uganda, have already banned same-sex relationships.

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