MPs urge government to help LGBTQ+ Ugandans fleeing ‘horrific’ anti-homosexuality bill

suella Braverman

MPs have called on the UK government to create safe routes for LGBTQ+ people fleeing Uganda after the country’s parliament passed a draconian anti-LGBTQ+ bill.

The Ugandan government has faced sharp criticism over its Anti-Homosexuality Bill, passed on Tuesday (21 March), which would make it illegal to identify as LGBTQ+.

Those found guilty under the bill would face up to 20 years in prison, while anyone convicted of “aggravated homosexuality” – in this case referring to rape, child sexual abuse or incest – could be executed.

The bill, which is now on president Yoweri Museven’s desk, has been condemned by MPs in the UK.

“My heart breaks for LGBT+ people in Uganda following this decision,” Labour MP Charlotte Nichols told PinkNews.

“The UK government and our international partners must put pressure on the Ugandan government to reverse this decision, as well as ensuring safe and legal routes for Ugandans who need to leave the country to access asylum support in safe countries, including our own.” 

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Labour MP Nadia Whittome said the “horrific” bill is “the culmination of a long-standing campaign of persecution against LGBTQ+ people in Uganda, which has already caused untold suffering”. 

Labour MP Nadia Whittome
“As a queer woman, as a feminist, and as a socialist, LGBTQ+ rights are integral to my politics,” says Labour MP Nadia Whittome. (Credit: UK Parliament)

She added: “The UK must put serious diplomatic pressure on the Ugandan government not to sign this bill into the law. We must also welcome LGBTQ+ refugees fleeing persecution in Uganda, as well as other countries.” 

UK must provide ‘support’ to LGBTQ+ people fleeing Uganda

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on LGBTQ+ Rights said the passage of the proposed legislation is “just the latest in a number of worrying developments coming out of East Africa for LGBTQ+ people”.

A spokesperson for the group said: “Speaking with human rights activists on the ground, they need to hear that the world is watching and is prepared to support those standing up for rights in their countries.

“What this looks like in practical terms must include, but by no means is limited to, a review of how much funding is ring-fenced in the aid budget to support human rights activists fight bills like these, using all bilateral and multilateral opportunities to raise concerns with these governments, and continue to provide support to those fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.” 

Liberal Democrats MP Layla Moran said many LGBTQ+ Ugandans will be living in fear if the legislation is signed into law by Uganda president, Yoweri Museveni.

“People should be able to live their lives free from discrimination or intrusion and without fear of having their most fundamental rights violated,” she said.

“This legislation takes away that freedom, and prevents LGBT+ people from simply being themselves.” 

Labour MP Kate Osborne branded the bill abhorrent, saying: “It is truly appalling to see LGBTQI+ rights moving backwards in parts of the world, we must do all that we can to continue to educate and celebrate all things LGBTQI+. 

“This anti-LGBTQI+ bill risks legitimising homophobic and transphobic rhetoric and must be condemned – we have come so far in our movement – we cannot start moving backwards now.”

The official parliamentary portrait of Kate Kate Osborne
Kate Osborne branded the bill abhorrent. (Houses of Parliament)

Maggie Chapman, equalities spokeswoman for the Scottish Greens, called for “unity and international solidarity”.

Chapman told PinkNews: “My heart and my rage are with Uganda’s LGBTQIA+ community and their friends, families and allies.

“Nobody should be punished for who they are, let alone facing life in prison or the death penalty. This is a time for unity and international solidarity.

“Human rights are universal and we must never stand by when a vulnerable community is under attack.” 

Maggie Chapman, equalities spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, pictured at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre in 2019.
Maggie Chapman, equalities spokeswoman for the Scottish Greens, pictured at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre in 2019. (Ken Jack/Getty)

Uganda is facing significant international pressure to back away from the bill. 

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, said the law could open the door to “systemic violation” of LGBTQ+ people’s human rights.

“Promoting violence and discrimination against people for who they are, and how they love, is wrong and any disingenuous attempts to justify this on the basis of ‘values’ should be called out and condemned,” he said.

However, the Ugandan government seems committed to the bill. Asuman Basalirwa, who introduced the legislation, said it was designed to “protect our church culture, the legal religious and traditional family values of Ugandans from the acts that are likely to promote sexual promiscuity in this country”. 

Sarah Opendi, another Ugandan MP, said that the legislation didn’t go far enough and suggested that gay men should be castrated. 

The UK is currently facing criticism for its plan to send refugees who arrive by small boats to Rwanda, where anti-LGBTQ+ violence is common.