Colman Domingo
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Uganda's 'Kill the Gays' Bill Is Back

Yoweri Museveni

Uganda is considering a new version of the infamous “kill the gays” bill.

The African nation’s lawmakers began looking at legislation providing for the death penalty for certain instances of same-sex relations a decade ago. When the measure, known formally as the Anti-Homosexuality Act, finally was passed by Parliament in 2013, the maximum penalty it carried was life in prison rather than execution. But the following year, Uganda’s Constitutional Court struck down the law, not because of its content but because it was passed without two-thirds of members present to vote.

Now capital punishment for gay sex is on the table again. Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo says the legislation is necessary because of “recruitment by gay people.”

“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,” Lokodo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation Thursday.

“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.”

It wasn’t clear what would be considered “grave acts” under the new legislation, but the original “kill the gays” bill provided for the death penalty in instances of what was deemed “aggravated homosexuality,” including sex acts in which one person was HIV-positive or a minor.

Lokodo said the new bill will be introduced in Parliament in the next few weeks and has the support of President Yoweri Museveni. He predicted Parliament would pass it with the required two-thirds of members in attendance.

The original legislation led to international condemnation, including from President Obama, and the U.S. and other nations reduced or suspended aid. Activists are speaking out again now.

“When the law was introduced last time, it whipped up homophobic sentiment and hate crimes,” Pepe Julian Onziema of Sexual Minorities Uganda told The Independent. “Hundreds of LGBT+ people have been forced to leave the country as refugees and more will follow if this law is enacted. It will criminalize us from even advocating for LGBT+ rights, let alone supporting and protecting sexual minorities.”

Three gay men and a transgender woman have been killed in homophobic hate crimes this year, he said. The most recent fatal attack occurred last week, with a gay man being bludgeoned to death.

The original bill also led to a lawsuit by Sexual Minorities Uganda against anti-LGBTQ American minister Scott Lively, with the group saying he had committed international human rights violations by spreading hate in Uganda. The suit was ultimately dismissed by U.S. courts, partly on the grounds that they did not have jurisdiction over the matter, but U.S. District Judge Michael A. Ponsor did condemn Lively’s homophobia in no uncertain terms. Lively’s “positions on LGBTI people range from the ludicrous to the abhorrent,” Ponsor wrote.

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