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Uganda: Stop Harming Your Own Citizens

ReportOUT strongly condemns the recent decision of the Ugandan government to pass their Anti-Homosexuality Bill (2023). This toxic Bill will cause more harm than good, and should it be signed into law, it will harm more Ugandan citizens than it proposes to 'protect.'

Furthermore, this Bill should be revealed for what it is. This is a Bill which will cause irreparable harm to sexual and gender minorities and their allies, it will halt any development progress in tackling HIV and AIDS, and will leave the human rights of Uganda's most marginalised population, in shreds. This Bill is an easy vote winner, set to appease the wider Ugandan public, and designed to distract attention away from Uganda's slow economic growth, food insecurity issue, rising unemployment, and job losses, as forecast by the World Bank.

Our own OUT in Uganda Report, produced in 2020, with several Ugandan LGBTQI+ partner organisations, identified some worrying findings back then. Such as:

  • Three quarters of sexual and gender minorities stated that Uganda is 'very unsafe.' Factors such as community mob violence, persecution by the state, brutality by the police, and removal from housing by tenants after finding out their SOGIESC status, was common.

  • The mental health of many sexual and gender minorities is very poor, and a quarter of the respondents reported that their physical health was 'getting worse.'

  • Over half would not access healthcare services due to discrimination and fear of being reported to the police.

  • Over half would not report a crime to the police, fearing their own persecution.

  • 60% of sexual and gender minorities had been tortured within the previous 12 months of the research taking place.

  • A third of sexual and gender minorities live below the Ugandan Minimum Wage each month and 65% of them, live below the International Poverty line of $1.90 per day.

At the time, we all hoped that the situation may change for the better as we saw some promising results elsewhere in Africa, with Sudan removing the death penalty for homosexuality and with other nations such as Botswana, Gabon, and Angola, all decriminalising homosexuality around the same time.

The hope held by all of us, as the print dried on our report, was that the Ugandan state might follow the same path, and place the development needs and human rights of its most marginalised citizens, alongside other Ugandans. Sadly, recent events have shown this not to be the case, as the spectre of the 'Anti-Homosexuality Bill' has emerged again in parliament.

This is not the first time that the Ugandan state has tried to do this. In 2014, a similar law was put together with US evangelical organisations, and was nullified by a court on procedural grounds. Echoing this, a new Bill was passed late on Tuesday inside a packed parliamentary chamber in the capital, Kampala. The Bill has been supported by nearly all of the 389 legislators present, with only a small minority speaking against it.

The Ugandan state has always maintained an old colonial law on its statute books, imported by the British during colonial times, though it is never really used it. Yet Ugandan politicians have aimed to strengthen this law on a number of occasions, scapegoating sexual and gender minorities for voter gain, strengthened by some aspects of its media, which have led to the murder of LGBTQI+ activists, such as David Kato.

Without any sense of historical irony of US evangelical churches also interfering with Ugandan laws, President Yoweri Museveni has accused the West of "trying to impose their practices on other people" using a tired old trope of homosexuality as being 'Un-African' and 'from the West.' This is a classic way of creating an 'Us versus Them' narrative, whilst targeting an already vulnerable and marginalised population within its own nation state.

As the BBC has outlined, the Bill will:

  • Target an array of activities, and includes a ban on promoting and abetting homosexuality as well as 'conspiracy' to engage in homosexuality.

  • Ensure that friends, family and members of the community would have a duty to report individuals in same-sex relationships to the authorities.

  • Ensure that individuals or institutions which support or fund LGBTQI+ rights' activities or organisations, or publish, broadcast and distribute pro-gay media material and literature, also face prosecution and imprisonment

  • Ensure that media groups, journalists and publishers face prosecution and imprisonment for publishing, broadcasting, distribution of any content that advocates for gay rights or "promotes homosexuality."

  • Creates the offence of 'aggravated homosexuality' which now may lead to the death penalty, if sex relations result in the infecting of a person with HIV. Furthermore, it makes a repugnant link between homosexuality and paedophilia.

The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights has called the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (2023) “draconian,” saying it would have negative repercussions on society as a whole and that it violates the Uganda's own constitution.

The Ugandan state is not protecting its citizens, their human rights, or their development needs. This Bill will magnify some of Uganda's development issues even further, deepen poverty amongst this group, increase the spread of HIV, harm its own citizens, and will only serve to temporarily please some voters and politicians.

At ReportOUT, we urge the Ugandan government to stop harming its own citizens and we ask you to help us by doing the following:

  • Read our OUT in Uganda research and get informed.

  • Write to your nearest Ugandan Embassy and inform them of the negative impact of this draconian Bill, should it be signed off. Inform them that this Bill will harm its own citizens.

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