Tory government must ‘pressure’ Ugandan president to veto deadly anti-gay bill, activists say

A proptester holds a sign that reads: homophobic legislation is a crime against humanity

Ugandan LGBTQ+ groups and their allies are coming together to protest the country’s cruel Anti-Homosexuality Bill as part of an emergency global day of action. 

LGBTQ+, civil rights, health and asylum groups will join forces outside Uganda House in Trafalgar Square, the home of the Ugandan High Commission to protest, the archaic bill. 

In its current form, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill – which was passed by the Ugandan parliament on 21 March – would see even identifying as LGBTQ+ a criminal offence. 

Those found guilty under the strict law could face up to 20 years in prison, whilst people convicted of “aggravated homosexuality” – referring to rape, child sexual abuse or incest.– could be issued the death penalty. 

The demonstration demands an end to the legislation and support from international allies, who they call on to “put pressure” on Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni to drop the bill altogether. 

Groups expected to attend the protest include the UK Alliance for Global Equality, UK Black Pride, ACT-UP London, Rainbow Migration, Peter Tatchell Foundation and STOPAIDS. 

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The Anti-Homosexuality Bill would also see allies of LGBTQ+ people criminalised for not turning over queer people to the Ugandan authorities, with a punishment of five years in jail on the table. 

However, on Thursday (20 April), Museveni refused to sign the bill and sent it back to parliament – to make it even harsher. The chilling move by the president is set to be debated on Tuesday (25 April). 

People protesting against Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill at the Uganda High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa (Alet Pretorius/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

Homosexual acts were already illegal in the East African nation due to laws dating back to Britian’s colonial occupation of the country, but the new bill would restrict the rights of LGBTQ+ Ugandan’s even further. 

Moud Goba, the chair of the board of trustees at UK Black Pride and manager of Micro Rainbow, told PinkNews there is a “real fear” amongst the LGBTQ+ community in Uganda, with activists working in the country also being threatened with years of imprisonment. 

She explained it is LGBTQ+ Ugandans who have called for the day of action and so the UK-based groups are taking leadership from them. 

She said people can support the LGBTQ+ community in Uganda by ensuring they are aware of the situation, educating themselves, donating funds and calling on the government to not be silent on the matter. 

“The UK government must take the maximum pressure on president Museveni to veto this bill, through their diplomatic channel and continually engaging [the Ugandan government]. 

“But in doing so,” Goba notes, “it is important also for the government to recognise that these laws are also a legacy of colonialism.” 

Many activists have pointed out the horrific legislation could be used to blackmail Ugandans who are not LGBTQ+ and will impact other groups in the country, such as those receiving treatment for HIV.

Goba said: “This is something that affects not only queer people, but people who are perceived to be different. It is no longer about just queer people but hurting anyone who is different, anyone who doesn’t fit the stereotype.

“There are people we need to think about who are the visible within the LGBT community – young lesbian women who might be forced into marriages to hide and people who are disabled who are queer – we have so many vulnerable people who we need to think of it the moment.”

‘Shaken, worried and scared’

Leaders, activists and LGBTQ+ groups around the world have universally condemned the draconian law, calling for Uganda’s government to cease its attacks on the LGBTQ+ community. 

In March, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the United States has extreme concerns about the bill and the impact it will have on Uganda as a whole, even going as far as to suggest the US would implement economic sanctions.  

“If the [bill] is signed into law and enacted, it would impinge upon universal human rights, jeopardise progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, deter tourism and [investment] in Uganda and damage Uganda’s international reputation,” Jean-Pierre said.

“It is one of the most extreme anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the world. Human rights are universal, no one should be attacked or imprisoned simply because of who they are and who they love.”

She added: “That would be really unfortunate because so much of the economic assistance that we provide Uganda is health assistance, and largely through [the president’s emergency plan for AIDS relief]. 

“We’re certainly watching this closely and we’ll have to take a look whether or not there would be repercussions, perhaps in an economic way, if this law were to be passed and enacted.”

In the wake of the bill being passed, Ugandan LGBTQ+ activist Kasha Nabagesera – who is currently based in the United States – said it has left Uganda’s LGBTQ+ community “shaken, worried and scared”.

She told PinkNews: “Over the years, we’ve been able to make some strides together in solidarity. We just need to continue to be there for each other and to check on each other, to see if everyone is safe and how everyone is doing. 

“But also, not to despair because what we are doing as a movement is not extraordinary, other movements around the world have done it before. 

“We should get some hope from past movements from around the world that one day, this shall pass. Let’s just keep strong but also vigilant because we need to be safe for us to continue the struggle.”

PinkNews has contacted the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office for comment.