Today (Feburary 24, 2014), Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a controversial anti-gay bill into law, despite international outcry. The bill, called the ‘Jail the Gays Bill,’ originally called for the death penalty for homosexual acts when it was first proposed in 2009. Although the death penalty was removed from the final draft, prison sentences of 7 years, 14 years, and life are the new penalties for violating this law.
Under this law, LGBT people face life imprisonment if:
- someone engages in a sexual act with a person of the same gender
- someone marries a person of the same gender
- someone touches another person of the same gender with ‘intent’ to engage in a sexual act
Also, prison sentences for anyone(including a straight person) who tries to support LGBT people:
- 7 years in jail for officiating a marriage between people of the same sex
- 7 years in jail for trying to aid or counsel LGBT people
- 5-7 years in jail for offering premises or supplies to LGBT related activities
- 5-7 years in jail for directors of any business or non-governmental organization (NGO) who supports LGBT people
- Similarly, any national or international company or human rights organization in Uganda, which supports lesbian, gay, bi or trans people (including their own employees), could face 7 years jail and de-registration of the company (Montreal Gazette).
Human rights groups like Amnesty International have expressed concern that this law could essentially outlaw much of their work in Uganda, making it extremely difficult to legally advocate for increased gay rights, or even offer adequate health services to LGBT Ugandans.
Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights warned the law was “formulated so broadly that it may lead to abuse of power and accusations against anyone”.
According to President Museveni:
The LGBT community in Uganda face frequent harassment and threats of violence, and rights activists have reported cases of lesbians being subjected to “corrective” rapes.
In 2011, Ugandan gay rights campaigner David Kato was bludgeoned to death at his home after a newspaper splashed photos, names and addresses of gays in Uganda on its front page along with a yellow banner reading “Hang Them”.
Currently, there is a petition from All Out that is calling on Ugandan leaders, global governments, corporations and religious institutions to take forceful action to denounce the law. To sign this petition, go to http://www.allout.org/kill-the-bill.
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