It would be unthinkable to see laws passed in Washington or EU advocating the death penalty for homosexuality, but Uganda is rushing headlong into a homophobic abyss:
The proposed law is more a rant against homosexuality and the west than a workable piece of legislation intended for Uganda itself. Much of it consists of a list of unfounded claims, starting with the statement that “same sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic”. Infamously, it calls for the execution of gay men found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality” – by which it means those who are HIV positive, or who have sex with someone who is under 18 or disabled. The bill may be amended during its passage through parliament to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment, but that change would be only a gesture to spare the blushes of Uganda’s aid donors. If passed – which looks likely, since its sponsor is a member of Uganda’s ruling party – the bill will continue to write hate into law.
To say that acceptance of homosexuality is a ‘liberal’ or ‘Western’ perspective is essentially to collude in the abuse of gay people around the world. Of course being gay is an innate and immutable characteristic, and to propose the death penalty for HIV positive men and jail for everyone else isn’t just immoral it’s backward. Some will say such a statement is racist, but when was it true that all Ugandans, Africans or black people were homophobic? On the contrary, considering the wide-ranging dangers the bill poses, should we not be allying ourselves with Ugandans opposed to this hate law?
David Bahati, Ndorwa County West minister of parliament, tabled the Bill saying Uganda needed comprehensive legislation to prohibit any form of sexual relations between people of the same sex.
The Bill, according to Bahati, seeks to plug gaps in the Ugandan constitution, and stipulate that marriage is between a man and a woman only. Other unions will not be recognised. And if same sex couples are married abroad, they face life imprisonment.
Practising homosexuality has been illegal in Uganda and is listed in the penal code, though police say it is hard to investigate this crime because “homosexuals operate under cover”.
But the new Bill now forces people in authority to report offences to the police within 24 hours, or they themselves will face fines or up to three years in prison.
Anyone found guilty of committing homosexuality, or advocating homosexuality to a group or assembly, will face a prison sentence. The penalties are up to 10 years in prison or a fine not exceeding $5,500 or both.
The Bill also seeks extra territorial jurisdiction and will apply to any Ugandan involved in a LGBT relationship outside of the country. The Bill also seeks to extradite any Ugandan guilty of the offences it lists.
Under the terms of Britain’s Extradition Act Uganda is covered as a category 2 territory, which, whilst not allowing the extradition of an HIV positive Ugandan, would certainly allow for the extradition of any other Ugandan covered by the country’s gay hate legislation. Should it pass, the Home Office must make it clear that the Act will not be used to allow the infringement of human rights by the Ugandan government, and separately that gay asylum seekers will under no circumstances be returned to Uganda.
This is a law attacking basic human rights and should it pass it must have consequences. The Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL) acknowledges the scope of this attack:
“In reality this would involve Uganda withdrawing from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its protocols, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.”
The Swedes, who currently hold the rotating EU presidency, and who donate $50 annually to Uganda, have said they’ll rescind their annual contribution should the law pass. Britain should not just call for the country to be immediately suspended from the Commonwealth, but she should follow Sweden’s lead.