Uganda’s Parliament passes bill criminalizing identifying as LGBTQ

New York: Uganda’s Parliament has passed a bill to criminalize people identifying as LGBTQ and under which a person can be jailed for up to 10 years. As homosexual acts are already illegal in the east African country, now under the proposed Anti Homosexuality Bill 2023, friends, family and members of the community would have a duty to report individuals in same-sex relationships to the authorities, the BBC reported.

The bill, which was first tabled earlier this month, passed with widespread support in Parliament this week. It will now go to President Yoweri Museveni who can choose to use his veto or sign it into law.

The bill also stipulates that a person who is convicted of grooming or trafficking children for purposes of engaging them in homosexual activities faces life in prison.

Individuals or institutions which support or fund LGBT rights’ activities or organizations, or publish, broadcast and distribute pro-gay media material and literature, will also face prosecution and imprisonment.

While introducing the bill in Parliament, opposition lawmaker Asuman Basalirwa said that it aims to “protect our church culture; the legal, religious and traditional family values of Ugandans from the acts that are likely to promote sexual promiscuity in this country”, reports CNN.

But a small group of Ugandan MPs on a committee scrutinizing the bill argued that the offences it seeks to criminalize are already covered in the country’s Penal Code Act.

Lawmaker Fox Odoi-Oywelowo spoke out against the bill, saying that it “contravenes established international and regional human rights standards” as it “unfairly limits the fundamental rights of LGBTQ+ persons”.

Rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch had warned earlier this month that the law would violate Ugandans’ rights to freedom of expression and association privacy, equality, and non-discrimination, CNN reported.

Uganda made headlines in 2009 when when it introduced an anti-homosexuality bill that included a death sentence for gay sex. Same-sex relations are banned in about 30 African countries, where many people uphold conservative religious and social values.

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