While LGBT groups in the U.S. are fighting for the legalization of same-sex marriage those in Africa are still fighting laws that make homosexuality, in itself, a criminal act. Friday, Uganda passed a bill making certain homosexual acts punishable by life imprisonment. The process of obtaining rights for homosexuals in the continent of Africa as a whole, has been slow. This new bill in Uganda is seen as a great setback for LGBT groups around the world and has pushed many activists into action in order to prevent the legalization of the bill.
The Ugandan Parliament has passed an anti-gay bill which will make any engagement in homosexual acts punishable by 14 years to life in prison. The bill was originally introduced in 2009 and nick-named the “Kill the Gays Bill”. The original bill called for the death penalty for any convictions for “aggravated homosexuality”. When released there was immediate condemnation and backlash from the international community.
Uganda, like most African countries, already has sodomy laws in place from colonial times. However, in an effort to further “strengthen” anti-gay laws, the parliament has worked on making the 2009 bill more of a possibility. Lawmakers have been cautious in passing the bill due to foreign countries threatening to withdraw their aid, if the bill is passed.
To appease their European supporters, the parliament has revised the bill. The bill passed on Friday does not contain the original clause calling for the death penalty. It now proposes 14 years to life in prison for offenders. It also proposes years in prison for anyone counseling and reaching out to homosexuals.
The bill is yet to become law. It still requires the signature of President Yoweri Museveni. Museveni has 30 days to either sign or veto the bill. Human rights groups are moving quickly to action, calling for supporters to assist in the persuasion of Uganda’s president.
Gay rights activists have made some progress in working towards gay rights in Uganda and other African countries. There is the idea that because of these advances anti-gay groups have become afraid and are pushing for more regulations to stall any further movement.
LGBT groups and civil activists have reported an ease with the enforcement of laws against gays in Uganda. However, in recent years there have continued to be arrests and tortures of those suspected of being gay. Many have gone into hiding fearing for their lives.
Amidst the progress made by activists are anti-gay groups who are using fear to mobilize the people of Uganda against homosexuals. Evangelical Christian groups have been accused of leading the group of fear mongers. There have been releases of research and articles linking homosexuality to pedophilia and other sexual misconduct.
All Out is just one of the organizations working toward preventing the anti-gay bill in Uganda from being passed. The member supported organization is on a mission to challenge the 76 countries that criminalize homosexuality, including Uganda. In a short letter to President Museveni the organization asks him to keep his promise to “uphold Uganda’s Constitution” and veto the bill. The group has a petition in place with a goal of 300,000 signatures.
By Earnestine Jones