Uganda risks ‘LGBTQ+ genocide’ with Anti-Homosexuality Bill, activist says: ‘There’s a lot of fear’

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

A leading LGBTQ+ activist from Uganda says there is “a lot of fear” after the country’s parliament passed its Anti-Homosexuality Bill for a second time.

The bill triggered international outcry when it entered Uganda’s parliament in March. In its original form, the legislation would have made it a criminal offence to even identify as LGBTQ+. 

The bill passed for a second time on Tuesday (2 May) with a number of amendments. While it no longer criminalises those who simply identify as LGBTQ+, it still introduces the death penalty for what is described as “aggravated homosexuality” – which the bill describes as having sex with a minor, having sex while HIV positive, or engaging in incest.

It also upholds the criminalisation of gay sex, which was already illegal under a colonial-era law that was first put in place under British rule, and makes it illegal to “promote” homosexuality.

Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, says changes made to the bill “mean nothing at all” – and he’s now expecting violence against LGBTQ+ people to skyrocket.

Frank Mugisha, an LGBTI activist in Uganda, pictured in 2011.
Frank Mugisha, an LGBTI activist in Uganda, pictured in 2011. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty)

“Personally I think the changes don’t amount to anything. It is vague and broad when it comes to talking about promotion of homosexuality and what that looks like,” Mugisha says.

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Since the bill was first introduced, Mugisha has seen it all – queer people have contacted him saying their employers have threatened to fire them if the anti-homosexuality bill becomes law. Others have been threatened with eviction by their landlords.

“There’s a lot of fear. I’m getting a lot of messages from people telling me they want to flee the country. They’re worried about what’s next if the bill is signed.” 

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After the bill was first introduced, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni praised lawmakers for rejecting “the pressure from the imperialists”.

It’s a longstanding argument from those who oppose LGBTQ+ rights in some African nations – that queerness is not naturally occurring in Africa and is imported from the west.

Mugisha rejects that idea.

“The bill is supported by imperialists,” he says. “Members of parliament are not acting on their own – they’re acting on behalf of American evangelicals and the Russians,” he says, referencing evidence that significant amounts of money have been invested from abroad in Uganda’s anti-gay movement.

“The language in the legislation is not from our members of parliament – the language is similar to what we’re seeing in the US and other countries from extreme anti-gay groups and evangelicals.”

He is now pleading with the president to listen to the country’s LGBTQ+ community and to protect them from harm.

“The LGBTQ community is already vulnerable and this bill makes it even more difficult for LGBTQ persons who are already persecuted. 

“It could risk genocide for the LGBTQ+ community if this bill is signed.”

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