On December 20, lawmakers in Uganda passed an anti-homosexuality bill which states gays and lesbians can be imprisoned for life for certain acts – sex involving an HIV-infected person, sexual acts with minors and the disabled, repeated sex offences among consenting adults. According to the bill, a person who conducts a marriage ceremony for same-sex couples can also be sent to jail for seven years. Gay rights activists referred to the legislation as “the worst in the world”.
David Bahati, the lawmaker who wrote the bill, said that the legislation was important to defend Uganda’s culture and the future of its children. When the bill was introduced in 2009, it included a death penalty but that was removed before the parliament passed the revised version on Friday. For the bill to become a law, President Yoweri Museveni must sign it within 30 days. In the past, Museveni has spoken disapprovingly of the queer community but recently, he appears to have taken a softer stance.
“In our society there were a few homosexuals. There was no persecution, no killings and no marginalization of these people but they were regarded as deviants. Sex among Africans, including heterosexuals, is confidential. If I am to kiss my wife in public, I would lose an election in Uganda,” he said.
Frank Mugisha, a well-known gay activist in Uganda has requested the president not to sign the bill. “It will open a new era of fear and persecution. If this law is signed by President Museveni, I'd be thrown in jail for life and in all likelihood killed,” said Mugisha.
Gay rights groups in the United States have denounced the bill. Human Right First has urged United States President, Barack Obama to ask Museveni not to sign the bill into law. According to a report released by Amnesty International, homosexuality is a taboo subject in Africa and approximately 70 percent of the continent criminalizes homosexual activities.