The Ugandan parliament recently approved, by a large majority, a law with tough new penalties to crack down on same-sex relationships. In Uganda, where homosexuality is already illegal, now even saying one is gay could end in a life sentence. The authorities are also pushing to ‘sensitize’ the rest of the population to report homosexuals, on the basis of a phantom civic duty.
The same bill further introduces the death penalty for those who abuse children or vulnerable people, somehow equating the perpetrators of these serious and heinous crimes with people who are simply not heterosexual.
It will now be up to President Yoweri Museveni to decide whether to sign the bill or exercise his veto. However, given the President’s recent statements on numerous occasions with homophobic remarks, the climate in the international community is tense and not very optimistic.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, said that ‘the passage of this discriminatory bill – probably among the worst of its kind in the world – is a deeply worrying development’, adding that ‘if signed by the President, it will turn lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Uganda into criminals simply for existing, for being who they are. It could provide carte blanche for the systematic violation of almost all their human rights and serve to incite people against each other’.
Maria Cecilia Castellazzi, Trainee Lawyer