Fearing a witch-hunt in Uganda

February 17, 2014

The worst case scenario for the rights of gay men and lesbians in Uganda is unfolding before the eyes of the world. Despite strong international opposition, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni will most likely sign the dreaded anti-homosexuality bill into law. Once he does that, LGBT people in Uganda risk life-long imprisonment for “homosexual acts” and numerous homophobic rules will come into force.

Since the Ugandan Parliament passed the anti-homosexuality bill on December 20, 2013, the call to #stopAHB has resounded worldwide asking the president to send the bill back to parliament. This weekend, however, President Museveni declared he intends to sign the bill because according to experts he consulted, homosexuality is not scientifically proven to be innate.

Open opposition to the bill is becoming more dangerous for the local LGBT community. Behind the scenes, gay activists are trying to turn the tide, but at the same time they need to guard against the far-reaching consequences of the terrifying bill, which could impose a prison sentence of seven years on a person for “one touch with homosexual intent” and ban organisations that are perceived to promote homosexuality.

Hivos fears a witch-hunt as soon as the ink has dried on the law. In recent years, Uganda had been the scene of a series of violent incidents against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Fuelled by religious conservatism and social disapproval, LGBT people have become fair game for abuse, threats, blackmail and extortion. Hivos supports the local LGBT community wherever possible, but now sees only a diplomatic solution to the situation.

If this bill should unfortunately be signed into law, human rights activists will resist the elements in it that do not comply with the Constitution, such as violations of the right to privacy, equality, respect for private life and freedom of expression.