Uganda: Cruel anti-homosexuality bill to be softened – but only slightly

Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni standing at a lecturn

The president of Uganda has asked lawmakers to make changes to the country’s proposed anti-LGBTQ+ bill that could see people jailed or executed for homosexuality.

Yoweri Museveni wants it amended to ensure identifying as homosexual in Uganda is legal, but committing “homosexual acts” could be punished by law.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was passed in its current form by the Ugandan parliament last month and would make simply identifying as LGBTQ+ a criminal offence.

It was sent to president Museveni to sign into law, but he rejected it on Thursday (20 April).

At the time, the government’s chief whip, Denis Hamson Obua, said the bill needed amendments to “facilitate the reinforcement and the strengthening of some provisions in line with our best practices”.

Now, as reported by Reuters, Museveni has asked lawmakers to make it clear that identifying as homosexual would not be classed as criminal, but committing homosexual acts would.

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In a letter read to parliament on Tuesday (25 April), the president wrote: “The bill should be reviewed and include a provision that clearly states… a person who is believed or alleged or suspected of being a homosexual who has not committed a sexual act with another person of the same sex does not commit an offence.”

Due to “constitutional challenges” that would be created, lawmakers have also been asked to remove wording about people having a duty to report homosexual acts.

Reuters also reported that the parliament was advised by the country’s deputy attorney general, Jackson Kafuuzi, to remove a mandatory death penalty, for those found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality”, from the proposed legislation.

The bill was referred back to the parliament’s legal affairs committee, from where it will have to return to the house to be debated and passed again. If passed, it will be sent back to Museveni to be signed into law.

The bill faced criticism worldwide, with the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Volker Türk, urging Museveni not to approve.

Various groups have protested in the UK too, including outside the Ugandan High Commission in London, while calling on international governments and groups to put pressure on Uganda to scrap the proposed law altogether.