Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill Now Law

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Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, has today signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law – a draconian instrument, roundly condemned by Ugandan and international human rights defenders, observers and institutions.
The law significantly toughens existing legislation, which already outlaws same sex relationships between men. First-time offenders, found guilty of homosexual acts, could now face up to 14 years in jail. Life imprisonment has also been brought in as penalty for acts of ‘aggravated homosexuality’.
Lesbian and bisexual women are covered by the bill for the first time.
The law also makes it a crime for others not to report those they suspect of engaging in same sex acts – effectively institutionalising a culture of everyday surveillance around non-heterosexual relationships, and clamping down on the possibility ot free expression of identity, and of dissent.
‘The law criminalises the “promotion” and even the mere “recognition” of homosexual relations “through or with the support of any government entity in Uganda or any other non-governmental organisation inside or outside the country”,’ reports BBC World.
When it was first tabled in 2009, the bill originally proposed the death penalty for some same sex acts – measures which were later removed after international outrcy.
LGBTI activists say they will challenge the new laws in court. The law has been condemned by LGBTI and human rights groups and institutions as inconsistent with the values ensrinhed in the Ugandan Constitution, which explicitly includes universal respect of the right to freedom of expression.
It also remains to be seen how the new law may actually play out, in a context in which anti-LGBTI laws are most often used to ‘persecute’ rather than actually ‘prosecute’ LGBTI individuals.
A research report released on January 15, 2014, by Ugandan human rights groups, the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) and the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CSCHRCL), for example, revealed that (then) existing laws criminalising same sex conduct in Uganda were ‘not being used to prosecute but rather to persecute LGBTI and suspected LGBTI persons in Uganda’.
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