Statement by MenEngage Africa Alliance
The Ugandan parliament passed a bill recommending tough new penalties for same-sex relations and identifying as gay, in a country where homosexuality is already illegal. LGBTI+ community in Uganda have come under sustained and increasing attack in recent months from politicians, religious leaders, and other public figures. This has manifested itself in the form of a perilous and false portrayal of LGBTI+ people as a threat to children and traditional norms . This deliberate framing has created an environment in which anti-LGBTI+ sentiment is normalized, both in the public and private institutions.
Uganda passed an anti-homosexuality bill on Tuesday, March 21st, 2023. The passage of the anti-homosexuality Bill 2023 is a step backward in country that has just dismantled its Human Rights oversite body ostensibly because the country has achieved its human rights goals. What an irony! MenEngage Africa is deeply concerned and disheartened that lawmakers chose to violate the rights of others in the name of religious or traditional beliefs.
This is one of the harshest such laws in Africa and if passed into law, it presents a dangerous precedent for other conservative African countries many of which already criminalize same sex relationships. The bill’s passage comes at a time when conspiracy theories abound on social media, accusing unknown international forces of encouraging homosexuality in Uganda.
The bill awaits President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled the African Great Lakes country with an iron fist since 1986, to sign into law. While he has not commented much about the Bill, he has previously called homosexuals “deviants” just days before the bill was considered by parliamentarians. The president’s persistent attacks and name-calling are extremely concerning. We are disappointed that instead of bringing together the nation and protecting minority groups’ rights, he is perpetuating hate.
According to the Bill, anyone who engages in same-sex activity or publicly identifies as LGBTQ could face up to ten years in prison under the proposed law. This would be a violation of several fundamental rights. LGBTQ people have the same human rights as everyone else, including the right to live free of discrimination and to personal freedom and safety. This includes the right to marry, work, receive education and healthcare, and live in a safe environment free of violence and harassment. However, with the passage of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, LGBTQ people face legal and social discrimination.
Regional economic blocks such at East African Community and African Union have the responsibility to hold their members accountable to prevent and address the high levels of violence and discrimination against LGBTQI+ people. Uganda is a member of the African Union Commission and has ratified African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Resolution 275, titled “Resolution on Protection against Violence and Other Human Rights Violations Against Persons on the Basis of Their Real or Imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity,” which establishes governments’ obligations to prevent violence and other human rights violations against individuals on the basis of their sexual or gender identity. The bill would not only violate but also pervert that obligation by facilitating violence and violations of human rights.
Therefore, we call on them to intervene in this matter. It’s important to advocate for and support LGBTQ+ rights to help create a more inclusive and accepting society. MenEngage Africa continues to support and work with the LGBTQI+ community as an integral part of the development of our society. This we do in affirmation of the UN SDG principle, “Leave no one behind”.
“This bill seeks to harm not only LGBTIQ+ persons but their families and loved ones as well. It is dangerous, hateful, and the start of what can only be described as the erasure of queer people in Uganda. I stand in solidarity with the queer community, their families, allies, and other human rights activists who have been fighting and resisting homophobia and retrogressive laws. We are with you.” Kisa, LGBTQ activist, Q-Initiative, Eldoret, Kenya.
Photo Credit: Steve Johnson