Uganda’s parliament has passed sweeping antigay legislation that proposes tough new penalties for same-sex relationships and criminalizes anyone identifying as LGBTQ.
While more than 30 African countries, including Uganda, already ban same-sex relationships, the new law passed on Tuesday appears to be the first to outlaw merely identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ), Human Rights Watch said.
“The ayes have it,” Parliamentary Speaker Anita Annet Among said after the final vote, adding that the “bill passed in record time”.
Legislators amended significant portions of the original draft law, with all but one speaking against the bill. Supporters of the tough legislation say it is needed to punish a broader array of LGBTQ activities, which they say threaten traditional values in the conservative and religious East African nation.
The legislation will now be sent to President Yoweri Museveni to be signed into law.
Museveni has not commented on the current legislation but has long opposed LGBTQ rights and signed an anti-LGBTQ law in 2013 that Western countries condemned before a domestic court struck it down on procedural grounds. Nevertheless, the 78-year-old leader has consistently signaled he does not view the issue as a priority and would prefer to maintain good relations with Western donors and investors.
Discussion about the bill in parliament was laced with homophobic rhetoric, with politicians conflating child sexual abuse with consensual same-sex activity between adults.
“Our creator God is happy [about] what is happening … I support the bill to protect the future of our children,” legislator David Bahati said during the debate on the bill.
“This is about the sovereignty of our nation, nobody should blackmail us, nobody should intimidate us.”
In addition to same-sex intercourse, the law bans promoting and abetting homosexuality as well as conspiracy to engage in homosexuality.