Uganda parliament instructed to ‘strengthen’ LGBT law

by Will Tubbs

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni supports a bill containing some of the world’s harshest anti-LGBTQ legislation but sent it back to parliament on Thursday for “strengthening”, the ruling party chief whip said.

A group of lawmakers from Museveni’s ruling National Resistance Movement discussed the bill with the president and agreed in principle to sign the bill into law, chief whip Denis Hamson Obua said.

“Before that is done we also agree that the bill will be returned in order to facilitate the reinforcement and the strengthening of some provisions in line with our best practices,” he told a news conference after the meeting.

Obua said Museveni would hold a meeting on Tuesday with parliament’s legal and parliamentary affairs committee to draft the amendments.

Human rights activists and the U.S. government say the bill is among the harshest pieces of legislation penalizing sexual minorities anywhere in the world.

The United Nations, European Union and a long list of corporate giants have condemned it.

It would impose the death penalty for so-called aggravated homosexuality, which includes having gay sex when HIV-positive, and 20-year sentences for “promoting” homosexuality.

Its passage last month with near unanimous support in parliament has already triggered a wave of arrests, evictions and mob attacks against LGBTQ Ugandans, members of the community say.

Museveni is a strong opponent of LGBTQ rights who last month called gay people “deviations from normal”.

He signed a law in 2014 that strengthened penalties for same-sex relations but has also suggested at times that homosexuality should be addressed through treatment rather than legislation.

He faced a possible juggling act trying to keep lawmakers happy over legislation that has broad popular support while not antagonizing foreign donors who provide billions of dollars in aid each year.

Western governments suspended aid, imposed visa restrictions and curtailed security cooperation in response to the law Museveni signed in 2014.

That law was nullified within months by a domestic court on procedural grounds.

Same-sex relations are already illegal in Uganda, as they are in more than 30 African countries, but proponents of the new bill said stronger legislation was needed to combat the threat homosexuality presents to traditional family values.

Lawmakers in neighboring Kenya and Tanzania have recently called for similar measures in their countries.

A coalition of international companies, including Google, criticized the legislation last month, warning it would put those with operations in Uganda in an impossible position and hurt the country’s economy.

Copyright 2023 Thomson/Reuters