Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni
In Uganda’s capital Kampala, the Ugandan Parliament is poised to vote on a bill infamously known as the “Kill the Gays” Bill. The bill was first introduced in 2009 by MP David Bahati, but was later tabled and reintroduced a second time in November 2012.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill broadens the existing criminal statute on same-sex relations. Health professionals could be imprisoned or fined for allowing LGBTI individuals to be treated in their workplaces. Additionally, landowners would face seven years in prison for providing living space to LGBTI individuals.

When the bill was introduced in 2009 it included the provision of the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” a clause which could be invoked if, for example, an HIV-positive person was found guilty of engaging in homosexual intercourse. There is some international ambiguity as to whether the death penalty clause has remained a provision of the bill. In the Order Paper for February 27th, 2013, under the Ugandan Parliament’s “Order of Business to Follow,” the bill is listed as the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009,” which Richard Elliott, the Executive Director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, believes is suggestive that the Parliament will be voting on the unrevised 2009 version.

Ugandan tabloids such as The Rolling Stone (now defunct) and Red Pepper have also stoked anti-homosexual fires by publishing photographs and names on several occasions of alleged homosexuals. Out of fear for individuals’ personal safety, Frank Mugisha of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) has extensively advocated against these public “outings.” Mugisha believes that the Parliament will undertake the vote on the bill soon, as it is eager to bolster public support after a recent corruption scandal.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni attempted to assuage the horror of international donors towards the bill by stating, “We shall not kill or prosecute [gay populations], but there should be no promotion of homosexuality.” However, the Parliament is enthusiastic about pushing the bill into legislation. In 2008-2009 foreign aid accounted for thirty-two per cent of Uganda’s budget, yet David Bahati states that the Parliament is willing to sacrifice the support of international donors in order to pass the bill.

Consequences of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would detrimentally affect public health programming. Elliott believes that even without the death penalty provision the bill would “drive people viciously into the closet and makes it extremely risky to be identified as [any sexual or gender minority].” Elliott sees the bill as “a horribly draconian piece of legislation” which would increase discrimination, violence, and hate-mongering towards sexual and gender minority groups in Uganda.

David Rayside, a political science professor and associate of the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto, remembers when a similar, albeit less life-threatening, culture of fear was prevalent within the LGBTI community in Toronto in the late 1960s: “There was a lot of fear in terms of getting beat up by the police and engaging in sexual activity out of your own home.”

Changes in public perception in Toronto towards the LGBTI community took several decades, not gaining firm traction until the 1980s and 90s. Rayside asserts that, despite the fear of violence and persecution present within LGBTI groups in Uganda, there is certainly hope for a gradual process of change towards inclusivity.

John Baird, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs stated that “Canada will speak out” against this piece of legislature. Will Canadians rise to prove correct Baird’s emphatic statement?

The map is from Filip Spagnoli's blog.

Additional Info

  • Subtitle: Canadians weigh in on impact and response
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