Uganda passes bill making it a crime to identify as LBGTQ

by Jacob Fuller

Matt Bush, FISM News

Lawmakers in Uganda overwhelmingly passed a bill that would make it a crime to identify as LBGTQ and would give authorities in the country broad powers to target Ugandans who are gay.

The legislation was presented to a packed parliament late Tuesday in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, where 389 legislators were present and almost all of them voted in favor of the legislation that is expected to be signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni.

“Congratulations,” said Speaker Anita Among after the vote. “Whatever we are doing, we are doing it for the people of Uganda.”

Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda and has been since British colonial times. Even before this measure, the U.S. State Department issued this warning about traveling to Uganda:

Consensual same-sex sexual relations are criminalized in Uganda. Social acceptance of homosexuality remains very low. LGBTI individuals or suspected LGBTI individuals could face harassment, imprisonment, blackmail, and violence.


This new legislation will make things much worse for those who practice homosexuality. According to NBC News, it is the first nation to make even identifying as LBGTQ illegal and it will add much harsher punishments.

While same-sex activity is already punishable by life imprisonment, the bill would create an offense of “attempted homosexuality” that is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. A person can be charged with attempted homosexuality if they simply identify as LBGTQ.

“One of the most extreme features of this new bill is that it criminalizes people simply for being who they are as well as further infringing on the rights to privacy, and freedoms of expression and association that are already compromised in Uganda,” Oryem Nyeko, a Human Rights Watch researcher in Uganda, said.

Another new offense that this bill would create is the charge of “aggravated homosexuality.” Aggravated homosexuality has to do with sexual relations among those infected with HIV, sexual encounters with minors, and others. According to NPR and other sources, charges of aggravated homosexuality can carry the death penalty.


Condemnation of the bill from the international community has been swift. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken tweeted, “The Anti-Homosexuality Act passed by the Ugandan Parliament yesterday would undermine fundamental human rights of all Ugandans and could reverse gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. may look to enact a response.

“We would have to take a look at whether or not there might be repercussions that we would have to take, perhaps in an economic way, should this law actually get passed and enacted,” Kirby said. “Financial repercussions would be really unfortunate because so much of the economic assistance that we provide is health assistance.”


Lawmakers in the nation seem unwilling to bend to international pressure, and some believe it was international pressure that led to the bill being introduced in the first place.

“Our creator God is happy [about] what is happening. … I support the bill to protect the future of our children,” said lawmaker David Bahati. “This is about the sovereignty of our nation. Nobody should blackmail us. Nobody should intimidate us.”

In a recent speech, President Museveni accused some unnamed western nations, presumably the U.S. among them, of “trying to impose their practices on other people.” This bill is, at least to some extent, a response to that outward pressure.

“From the very start, this whole bill coming into Uganda was because of, for example, American evangelicals who would come to Uganda. And what’s happening in Uganda is not just in isolation,” Ugandan LGBTQ activist Richard Lusimbo told NPR.

Homosexuality is criminalized in 30 of 54 African nations, but this would be the first law to punish a person for who they identify as rather than what they have done.