Uganda Is Bringing Back Its “Kill the Gays” Bill

The law would impose the death penalty not only for homosexual acts, but also punish anyone advocating on behalf of LGBTQ people.

Uganda is resurrecting its “Kill the Gays” bill, announcing on Thursday, October 10, that it plans to once again attempt to pass it into law.

Homosexuality is already punishable with imprisonment in the country, and the proposed law would institute the death penalty for anyone engaged in same-sex sexual activity, as well as punishing anyone discussing homosexuality as a natural occurrence.

“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,” Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Uganda LGBTQ rights
A person holds an umbrella bearing the colors of the rainbow flag as others wave flags during the the first gay pride rally since the overturning of a tough anti-homosexuality law, which authorities have appealed, in Entebbe, on August 9, 2014.

“Our current penal law is limited. It only criminalizes the act. 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.”

Uganda’s constitutional court overturned the law on a technicality in 2014, deciding it was not passed with the required quorum. While the government initially intended to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, they decided not to due to international pressure. That included the United States, the World Bank, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands all suspending or reducing aid, and the U.S. also imposing visa restrictions and cancelling military exercises.

Lokodo says the African country is prepared for a similar reaction from the international community this time around, but signaled it wouldn’t be enough to prevent them from moving forward with their plans.

“It is a concern,” he said. “But we are ready. We don’t like blackmailing. Much as we know that this is going to irritate our supporters in budget and governance, we can’t just bend our heads and bow before people who want to impose a culture which is foreign to us.”

Earlier this year, Brunei announced it would impose the death penalty for homosexuality, but changed course due to international outcry and boycotts.

Uganda Pride parade

Lokodo said the bill is supported by President Yoweri Museveni, and that MPs had been lobbied, reporting many were supportive of the legislation. It will be re-introduced in parliament in the coming weeks, he said, and is expected to be voted on before the end of the year.

He is optimistic it will get the necessary two-thirds of members present required to pass and land on Museveni’s desk for his signature.

Pepe Julian Onziema, from Sexual Minorities Uganda, said the community is at increased risk merely at the re-introduction of the bill, as it “whipped up homophobic sentiment and hate crimes” when it was last introduced.

He reported that this year alone there have been three gay men and one transgender woman killed in anti-LGBTQ attacks.

“Hundreds of LGBT+ people have been forced to leave the country as refugees and more will follow if this law is enacted,” he added. “It will criminalize us from even advocated for LGBT+ rights, let alone supporting and protecting sexual minorities.”

Journalist, editor, and artist.