President Yoweri Museveni has signed the contentious anti-homosexuality bill into law, the Speaker of Parliament said Monday.
“The president … has executed his constitutional mandate … He has assented to the Anti-Homosexuality Act,” said Anita Among, speaker of Parliament. “As the Parliament of Uganda, we have answered the cries of our people. We have legislated to protect the sanctity of (the) family.”
A total of 371 lawmakers voted for the anti-homosexuality bill after President Museveni returned it to parliament for reconsideration and amendment in May.Among said the duty bearers should now enforce the law in a fair, steadfast, and firm manner.
Meanwhile, Gay activists in Uganda are calling for a repeal the Act signed into law. With members of Uganda’s LGBTQ community in shock, critics say the law, which allows life imprisonment and the death penalty in some cases, is draconian and the world’s harshest.
The new law calls for up to 20 years in prison for promoting homosexuality and life imprisonment for anyone convicted of homosexuality.
The law also imposes the death penalty for what it calls “aggravated homosexuality.” This includes having sex with people categorized as vulnerable, including the elderly and children.
Any Ugandan who does not report such cases is liable on conviction to spend five years in prison or pay a fine of 10 million Ugandan shillings, about $2,680.
Amnesty International has described the law as draconian and says it hopes that Ugandan rights groups will advocate for its repeal.
“We hope that we will continue working with rights groups to push or challenge, especially parliamentarians, to repeal this abhorrent law,” Roland Ebole, Amnesty International’s regional researcher, told VOA. “I know the second option is very unlikely considering that this was passed by a very large majority, so perhaps our hope right now is the court. That the court will actually look at this law and see that it is a violation on human rights.”
International bodies that operate in Uganda, such as UNAIDS and USAID, have previously stated that the passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act will not only complicate their work in Uganda, but reverse the gains made by country in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The anti-homosexuality bill in 2014 prompted widespread international criticism and was later nullified by the country’s Constitutional Court on technicalities. The court ruled that the bill was passed without the mandatory parliamentary quorum.
Mwenda, MP Odoi , nine others go to court
11 activists have petitioned the Constitutional Court seeking to block its implementation. The petitioners include former Makerere University lecturer of law Prof Sylvia Tamale, journalist and businessman Andrew Mwenda, Makerere University senior lecturer of law Dr Busingye Kabumba, Pan-African feminist activist Solome Nakaweesi and Budama North East MP Fox Odoi-Oywelowo, among others want court to issue a permanent injunction against the implementation of the law.
Other petitioners are Coordinator of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) Dr Frank Mugisha, former executive director of Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) Jacqueline Nabagesera Kasha, Richard Smith Lusimbo, Eric Ndawula, William Apako and Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF).
They claim that the conduct of the Speaker of the 11th Parliament (Anita Among) during debate and passing of the Bill amounted to bias and is inconsistent with and in contravention of Articles 20, 89 (1) and (2) of the Constitution.
They also claim that the law institutionalises a culture of hatred and creates a class of social misfits, which is inconsistent with and in contravention of Articles 2 (1) & (2), 20, 24 and 44 (a) of the Constitution, and is therefore null and void in its entirety.
“Your humble petitioners pray for a permanent injunction restraining the respondent (Attorney General) and any of its agents from the implementation of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023,” the petition filed on May 29 reads in part.
Their petition comes hours after the leaders of the Global Fund, UNAIDS and PEPFAR issued a joint statement condemning the law saying Uganda’s progress on its HIV response is now in “grave jeopardy.”
“The Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 will obstruct health education and the outreach that can help end AIDS as a public health threat. The stigma and discrimination associated with the passage of the Act has already led to reduced access to prevention as well as treatment services,” the joint statement by leaders of the Global Fund (Peter Sands), UNAIDS (Winnie Byanyima) and PEPFAR reads in part.
The UN Human Rights Office — whose commissioner Volker Turk in March described the bill as “among the worst of its kind in the world” — condemned its passage into law.
“It is a recipe for systematic violations of the rights of LGBT people & the wider population,” it said on Twitter.