Passed on Friday, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill calls for life imprisonment for gay sex involving HIV-positive individuals, acts with minors and the disabled, and for repeated “offenses” between consenting adults.
The bill’s original 2009 version, named “Kill The Gays,” went as far as calling for the death penalty for certain homosexual acts; that provision was shelved following international furor.
Under its latest iteration, anyone who conducts marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples faces seven years behind bars. Failure to report homosexual activity to police is also criminalized. Doctors who treat gays, landlords who rent them property and those suspected of being LBGTQ are subject to five-year prison terms under the bill.
Anyone who offers support to homosexuals will also be committing a criminal offense, which can reportedly extend to counseling.
Though homosexuality has already been illegal in the Southeast African nation, some argued this bill needed to be passed to safeguard against Western values.
“This is a piece of legislation that is needed in this country to protect the traditional family here in Africa,” said David Bahati, the member of Uganda’s parliament who introduced the original bill.
Bahati is also part of The Family, a private and influential evangelical sect that sends money to African nations to promote anti-gay legislation.
Per a Fog City Journal article, “The Family and other anti-gay groups have long viewed Uganda as a laboratory to experiment with Christian theocracy.”
According to Boise Weekly, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill had additional input from U.S. evangelicals. They included Scott Lively, a Massachusetts evangelical facing a U.S. lawsuit by gays in Uganda, accusing him of inciting homophobia in the African nation, according to the New York Times.
“There are those factions of the evangelical community in the U.S. that believe they’ve more or less lost the fight against the homosexual agenda,” said Malika Zouhali Worrall, a filmmaker who has documented Uganda’s LBGTQ community. “Therefore, they’re trying to pre-empt it in other countries.”
“Protecting” children is another reason lawmakers are arguing for the bill; Bahati said it will “defend our culture and defend the future of our children.”
An infamous news article in the country even reads, “Hang Them; They Are After Our Kids!”
Many LBGTQs and supporters in the nation and worldwide decried the bill’s passage.
“The witch hunt had already started, and now it has been legitimized by the parliament of Uganda, which is very scary,” said Clare Byarugaba, who coordinates the Ugandan Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, a gay rights group. “We don’t know how brutal the police will be now that the bill has passed. With this legitimization, it’s going to get worse.”
Ross Murray, director of news at the U.S. at the Gay And Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, called the bill “one of the worst human rights violations of our time.”
“It is now up to fair-minded Americans to speak up for the very lives of LGBTQ people in Uganda,” he told the Washington Post.
President Yoweri Museveni has to sign the bill within 30 days to make it official.