By Samuel Osborne |The Independent|
Uganda has announced plans to impose the death penalty on homosexuals.
The bill, colloquially known as “Kill the Gays” in Uganda, was nullified five years ago on a technicality, but the government said on Thursday it plans to resurrect it within weeks.
The government said the legislation would curb a rise in “unnatural sex” in the east African nation.
“Homosexuality is not natural to Ugandans, but there has been a massive recruitment by gay people in schools, and especially among the youth, where they are promoting the falsehood that people are born like that,” the country’s ethics and integrity minister, Simon Lokodo, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Our current penal law is limited. It only criminalises the act. We want it made clear that anyone who is even involved in promotion and recruitment has to be criminalised. Those that do grave acts will be given the death sentence.”
Mr Lokodo said the bill, which has the support of the country’s president, Yoweri Museveni, will be reintroduced in parliament in the coming weeks.
He said it was expected to be voted on before the end of the year.
The minister was optimistic the bill would pass with the necessary two-thirds of members present, he said, as the government had lobbied legislators ahead of its reintroduction.
Uganda’s constitutional court overturned the law – formerly known as the “Kill the Gays” bill because it includes the death penalty – on a technicality in 2014.
Uganda faced widespread international condemnation when the previous bill was signed off by Mr Museveni in 2014.
The United States reduced aid, imposed visa restrictions and cancelled military exercises. The World Bank, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands also suspended or redirected aid.
Mr Lokodo said Uganda was prepared for any negative response. “It is a concern,” he said.
“But we are ready. We don’t like blackmailing. Much as we know that this is going to irritate our supporters in budget and governance, we can’t just bend our heads and bow before people who want to impose a culture which is foreign to us.”
Under British colonial law, gay sex in Uganda is punishable with up to life imprisonment.
Activists warned the new bill risked an increase in violence and Pepe Julian Onziema from Sexual Minorities Uganda, an alliance of LGBT+ organisations, said its members were fearful.
“When the law was introduced last time, it whipped up homophobic sentiment and hate crimes,” said Mr Onziema.
“Hundreds of LGBT+ people have been forced to leave the country as refugees and more will follow if this law is enacted. It will criminalise us from even advocated for LGBT+ rights, let alone supporting and protecting sexual minorities.”
Mr Onziema said three gay men and one transgender woman had been killed in homophobic attacks in Uganda this year – the latest last week when a gay man was bludgeoned to death.