Ugandan parliament passes draconian new bill criminalising LGBTQ+
Cheering MPs and potential death sentences
The Ugandan parliament has just passed a draconian new bill making it illegal to identify as LGBTQ+.
The deeply chilling video of MPs cheering and applauding the bill has made the rounds online, with some people dubbing it a “terrifying” watch on Twitter.
All but two of the 389 MPs voting on it backed it.
One even wore a long white gown to parliament which read: “Say No to Homosexual, Lesbianism, Gay.”
Now that it’s passed, it is up to Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni to either veto it or sign it into law.
The alarming legislation has caused a particular stir over in the US, as the White House has voiced “grave concerns” that it would “damage Uganda’s reputation” and said Washington DC was considering imposing economic sanctions.
The UN has also urged the country’s president to block the bill altogether.
It’s also worth noting that homosexual sex was already punishable by life imprisonment even before this proposal appeared.
But this bill goes even further, and means a suspect convicted of so-called “aggravated homosexuality”, which applies to sexual relations involving those with HIV, minors or other vulnerable people, can result in the death penalty.
“Attempted homosexuality” can result in 10 years in prison, while the supposed offence of “homosexuality” can result in life imprisonment.
It passed after a surge in anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment in Uganda – but activists are determined not to give up.
More than 30 African countries have similar statues in place already, although this one is the first criminalise just being LGBTQ (as well as the promotion of homosexuality, and “abetting” and “conspiring” to engage in same-sex relations).
And while this worrying development in Uganda may seem far away from life in the UK, it’s not.
After all, Museveni has previously signalled that he backs the draconian law, and seemed to suggest that Western ideals were only making him harden his decision.
He said the West is “trying to impose their practices on other people”, in reference to LGBTQ+ rights.
He also claimed in February that the West was trying to get other nations to “normalise” “deviations”, adding: “Homosexuals are deviations from the normal. Why? Is it by nature or by nurture? We need to answer those questions. We need a medical opinion on that.”
Museveni is not the only leader to use LGBTQ+ rights to attack the West recently.
Russian president Vladimir Putin mocked the Church of England for considering using gender-neutral terms for God in a landmark speech earlier this year, adding: “We have to protect our children from degradation and degeneration – and we will.”
Even before this speech, Putin had already expanded the laws against so-called LGBTQ “propaganda” in Russia last year, so it’s illegal to promote any kind of same-sex relationship.
Rising anti-LGBTQ+ violence in the West and the legacy of colonialism
And while this all may make it seem like the West is therefore the safest place for the LGBTQ+ community, anti-queer violence is on the rise here too.
Violence against LGBTQ+ people reached its highest point in the past decade in Europe and Central Asia in 2022, according to a report by the European International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (LGA-Europe) in February.
The organisation’s executive director Evelyne Paradis said: “We have seen proof that anti-LGBTQ+ hate speech is not just the words of marginal leaders or would-be autocrats, but a real problem with dire consequences for people and communities.”
That’s a stark reminder that the devastating murder of Brianna Ghey, a trans schoolgirl, which hit headlines this year is just one of many heartbreaking incidents.
Even in moments which are supposed to celebrate joy, LGBTQ+ people often find themselves shut out.
For instance, the Church of England has refused to officially marry same-sex couples, deciding to offer only a blessing earlier this year.
The CoE, part of the world’s oldest Christian institutions – the Anglican Communion – still claims that marriage is between “one man and one woman”.
It did issue new guidance to welcome the trans community in 2018, amid the backlash from conservative corners – but, again, stopped short of fully welcoming trans Christians by not offering a transition blessing.
And, we can’t forget how colonialism helped spread anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment, by imposing strict religious laws around the world.
Alistair Stewart, head of advocacy at the Human Dignity Trust, told PinkNews back in December: “During the colonial era, European powers exported those legal and the laws criminalising LGBT people, across the globe, imposing them at times over diverse indigenous traditions where same-sex activity and gender diversity was not necessarily taboo.”
He pointed out how in the Commonwealth, where most of the 33 member countries criminalise same-sex activity, often do so on the basis of laws which reach right back to colonial era.
He continued: “The legacy of specifically British colonial-era penal codes figures heavily in the story of criminalisation – more than half of countries which criminalise LGBT people today can trace the source of these laws to Britain.
“The contemporary criminalisation of LGBT people is inextricably bound with colonial history.
“It’s right that where we campaign for change, this historical debt is acknowledged.”
Now is not the time to relax over LGBTQ+ rights, that’s for sure.
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