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Uganda Revives “Kill the Gays” Bill

African country previously backtracked on similar legislation

Kampala is Uganda’s capital city and home to its Parliament.
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Lawmakers in Uganda’s Parliament are again planning to introduce legislation making it punishable by death for individuals to engage in same-sex conduct.

The latest legislative push to impose death sentences for gay and lesbian relations in the East African nation comes five years after the passage of a bill that originally called for the death penalty but was amended to instead require life sentences.

The initial 2014 measure, which became known as the “Kill the Gays” bill, was only downgraded to life imprisonment after the United States responded by imposing sanctions and reducing certain foreign aid to Uganda and European nations took swift action to also cut off aid.

Shortly after the life imprisonment legislation was enacted, the nation’s Constitutional Court threw the law out.

The bill is resurging under apparent hysteria over messages of LGBTQ tolerance in schools.

“Homosexual­ity is not natural to Ugandans, but there has been a massive recruitment by gay people in schools, and especially among the youth, where they are promoting the falsehood that people are born like that,” Simon Lokodo, who is the ethics and integrity minister, told Reuters.

As is often seen in nations with strict laws penalizing LGBTQ rights, Uganda is also targeting those who are allies to gay folks. Lokodo further griped that current law, which includes anti-sodomy sanctions introduced in Uganda during British colonial rule, “is limited,” saying, “We want it made clear that anyone who is even involved in promotion and recruitment has to be criminalized. Those that do grave acts will be given the death sentence.”

Lokodo noted that lawmakers in Uganda hope to pass the bill before the end of the year. The quick pace with which legislators are moving could be a sign they hope to rush the bill through before international pressure again forces changes to it.

It is not clear whether the Trump administration, which has repeatedly chipped away at LGBTQ rights since 2017, would move to penalize Uganda for the proposal. President Donald Trump publicly unveiled a plan to eradicate the criminalization of homosexuality around the world, but his administration has simultaneously scaled back the State Department’s approach toward human rights abroad.

And there have been elected officials in the US — in fact, here in New York — who praised Uganda leaders as they finalized their original anti-sodomy crackdown five years ago. Bronx Councilmember Fernando Cabrera shocked the city and raised eyebrows in 2014 when he traveled to Uganda after the passage of the bill imposing life sentences for same-sex relations. While there, he posted a YouTube video — since deleted, but not before it was copied — calling the Ugandan government “godly” and praising its leaders for standing up against what he falsely described as warnings by the US to cut off aid unless the nation embraced marriage equality.

While Uganda is regressing on LGBTQ rights, other nations in Africa have shown glimmers of progress. A court ruling in Botswana decriminalized sodomy earlier this year and that nation’s government publicly endorsed the right of transgender folks to transition. Meanwhile, Angola unveiled a penal code earlier this year that excluded a ban on same-sex activity and Mozambique legalized sodomy in 2015. Kenya’s Court of Appeals confirmed a High Court ruling in March that officially recognized an LGBTQ organization.

Posted 12:00 am, October 12, 2019
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