Ugandan same-sex couples face life in jail under draconian new law

December 22, 2013

Hivos is appalled at the Ugandan parliament’s abrupt decision to rush through anti-homosexuality legislation Friday morning and calls on President Yoweri Museveni not to sign the Bill.

In a country where anyone found guilty of “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” already faced varying prison sentences, the new legislation provides for a sentence of life imprisonment for anyone convicted of homosexuality, which covers gays and lesbians. The law also makes it a crime punishable by prison to conduct a marriage ceremony for same-sex couples or if citizens do not report gay people to the authorities.

Not only does this law violate numerous rights, namely the right to privacy, to equality and to respect for private and family life, it also infringes on the right to freedom of association and assembly and the right to freedom of expression.

“I still cannot believe this is happening,” said a shocked Adrian Jjuuko of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum in Uganda, with whom Hivos has a longstanding partnership. “This law actually declares that LGBT people are outlawed.”

Hivos has serious concerns about the implications of the law in the very short term. “The parliamentary approval will be construed as a license for people in Uganda to make the lives of gays and lesbians impossible,” said Edwin Huizing, managing director of Hivos.

In recent years, Uganda has been the scene of a series of violent incidents against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Fuelled by religious conservatism and social disapproval, LGBT people have had to deal with constant abuse, threats, blackmail and extortion. “The law will most likely intensify the atmosphere of paranoia and suspicion both within and outside the LGBT community,” said Huizing.

The fear is now that other African countries will view the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill as an example to follow.

Read the joint press release, ‘Uganda: President Should Reject Anti-Homosexuality Bill’, put out by Hivos, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Human Rights Watch and Sexual Minorities Uganda.