Ugandan Parliament passes bill that could mean gays face life in prison

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Uganda’s Parliament has passed the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

The bill increases the penalty for other acts – including mere sexual touching – from seven years to life imprisonment.

Promoting homosexuality and aiding and abetting others to commit same-sex acts will be punishable by five to seven years in jail.

A person in authority – gay or heterosexual – who fails to report violators to the police within 24 hours will be sentenced to three years behind bars.

A clause which included the death penalty for some offences has been dropped.

The bill was first introduced in 2009 by MP David Bahati.

US President Barack Obama called it “odious” in 2010, while some donors have suggested that they could cut aid to Uganda if the bill is signed into law.

“I am officially illegal,” Ugandan gay activist Frank Mugisha said after the vote on Friday.

President Yoweri Museveni still has to sign the bill before it becomes law.

In November 2012, the Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, promised to pass the bill as a Christmas “gift” before the end of the year. 

When the deadline passed, human rights campaigners cautiously hoped that the apparent delay regarding the parliamentary vote would remain indefinite.

But in August this year, Ugandan gay rights campaigner Marvin R told PinkNews that political support for the bill in Ugandan remained strong – and that it could be passed by the Parliament at any moment. 

Same-sex sexual relationships are already illegal in Uganda.

A male convicted of same-sex activity can face up to life behind bars while a woman can face up to seven years.

LGBT rights campaigner David kato was murdered in Uganda in January 2011, having been outed by the country’s Rolling Stone magazine.

In March, President Museveni accused European countries of trying to promote homosexuality and sexual liberalisation. He described gay people as “deviants” and claimed “there is no discrimination, no killings, no marginalisation” of gay Ugandans.

In December 2012, President Museveni said gay people should not be killed or persecuted, but added: “We cannot accept promotion of homosexuality as if it is a good thing.”

Despite concerns about aid implications, it’s believed the president supports the spirit of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and may end up signing the bill into law following Friday’s vote.

Campaigner Marvin R told PinkNews in August: “Uganda gets a lot of money from America to have troops stationed in Somalia and Mr Museveni doesn’t want to lose that money but at the same time there is an election coming up and he gets a lot of support over the issue. There’s a lot in balance and he’s having to measure these things up.”

Meanwhile, the legal fate a British man charged in Uganda after images of him having sex with a man were published in a newspaper remains unclear.

Bernard Randell, 65, was arrested in October and charged with “trafficking obscene publications” after Uganda’s Red Pepper newspaper made public the details of the video on its front page.

Mr Randall was back in court on Monday, but the case was adjourned for a third time until 22 January.