Uganda’s president Museveni signs Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law: ‘How many will die?’

Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni wears a suit and tie as he sits down for an interview about the country's latest attempts to attack the LGBTQ+ community via the Anti-Homosexuality Act

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been signed into law, with activists calling the “deadly legislation” an “assault on human rights”.

Museveni gave assent to the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which immediately becomes one of the strictest anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the world, the official government of Uganda’s Twitter account reported on Monday (29 May). 

Uganda parliament speaker Anita Among also confirmed the news in a post on Twitter, saying Museveni had “answered the cries of our people” and “legislated to protect the sanctity of family”. 

“I now encourage the duty bearers under the law to execute the mandate bestowed upon them in the Anti-Homosexuality Act,” Among wrote. “The people of Uganda have spoken, and it is your duty to now enforce the law in a fair, steadfast and firm manner.”

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act introduces death sentence

The new legislation doubles down on already harsh sanctions imposed on LGBTQ+ people in Uganda, where consensual same-sex sexual intimacy is illegal. 

The Anti-Homosexuality Act introduces the new crime of “aggravated homosexuality”, which is defined as sex with a person under the age of 18 and having sex while HIV positive, among other categories. It carries a death sentence. 

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Parliament approved an earlier version of the bill in March that had provisions which sought to punish people for merely identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community, but this clause was later removed by lawmakers in May after Museveni returned the bill to parliament for reconsideration. 

Arthur Kayima, a queer Ugandan human rights activist, condemned the “vile, deadly legislation”, saying it will do “nothing to improve Uganda or the lives of Ugandans”. 

“Rather than focusing on the real issues Uganda is facing – poverty, poor infrastructure, the economy, domestic violence – Museveni would rather cause distraction by attacking our fundamental right to exist,” Kayima said. 

The activist continued: “I am afraid for my community. How many of us will be jailed, or beaten, or further chased into the shadows of society as a result of this legislation? How many will die?

“All of those who believe in our rights must fight this legislation and the forces behind it by all means necessary.”

LGBTQ+ and human rights advocates hold up signs denouncing Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Act during a protest
LGBTQ+ and human rights activists called on Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni to not sign the Anti-Homosexuality Act into law. Museveni ignored their pleas. (Getty)

Uganda anti-LGBTQ+ law is an ‘assault on human rights’

Mike Podmore, director of UK-based HIV, health and rights network STOPAIDS, said the bill is not only a “direct assault on human rights” but is also a “public health threat that will decimate the HIV response”.

Podmore described how the Anti-Homosexuality Act will criminalise the “provision of key services and further entrench the deadly stigma that sadly still surrounds HIV”. 

“We must do everything to persuade Uganda against this regressive step that could trigger a domino effect amongst other countries in the region to further backslide on LGBTQI+ rights, including Kenya, Ghana and Burundi,” Podmore said.

“Governments worldwide must immediately act to assert the rights of gay people and ensure the safety of LGBTQI+ Ugandans by ensuring frontline services are supported and safe asylum is given wherever needed.”

Podmore added that the UK has a “particular responsibility” in this fight, as laws criminalising LGBTQ+ people were first introduced when the British Empire colonised Uganda

Additionally, he said the US has a stake in this movement as “evangelical fundamentalist groups have funded this hateful agenda”.

After the Anti-Homosexuality Act passed through Uganda’s parliament in March, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre warned the US could implement economic sanctions if the African nation signed the bill into law. 

Jean-Pierre described the measure as “one of the most extreme anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the world”. 

She said the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation 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”. 

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