Once again, Ugandan lawmakers are launching a scathing attack against sexual minorities by proposing a new law that could make it illegal to say that you are gay, lesbian, or transgender.
Last Tuesday, following months of hostile rhetoric against sexual and gender minorities by public figures and an intensified government crackdown on human rights groups, including those defending the rights of Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, Uganda’s parliament granted leave to parliamentarian Asuman Basalirwa to introduce a revised and even more egregious version of the previously struck down 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Act.
The proposed new law makes it an offence to touch another person “with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality” and the “promotion of homosexuality.” It also effectively declares all same-sex conduct as nonconsensual. If passed, it would furthermore criminalize sexual and gender identity that is “contrary to the binary categories of male and female” and make it a crime to participate in a same sex marriage ceremony.
LGBT people face many risks in Uganda. The penal code already punishes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature,” which is interpreted to mean homosexual relations, with up to life imprisonment. The government has carried out two mass arrests of people on the basis of their presumed sexual orientation or gender identity and raided homeless shelters for LGBT youth, beating and arresting residents. In August 2022, the government banned Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a prominent LGBT rights organization, for not having officially registered even though the same authorities had blocked the group from registering.
When the Constitutional Court struck down the former Anti-Homosexuality Act on procedural grounds, the court did not take the opportunity to affirm the rights to freedom of expression, association, and privacy, which are provided for in the country’s constitution. Instead of targeting LGBT people, Ugandan politicians should affirm these fundamental human rights apply to all Ugandans, including vulnerable minorities.