Uganda introduces anti-homosexual legislation

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On October 14, Uganda introduced legislation that would outlaw and ban homosexuality in the nation. If politicians pass legislation, homosexuals would be forced to leave the country, or be imprisoned for life. Some human rights groups say the law would also allow authorities to kill homosexuals.

"This inflammatory bill will be taken as further confirmation that it is OK to attack or even kill people perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender," said spokesman for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Victor Mukasa on October 15. The organization is calling on Uganda's government to "immediately withdraw this dangerous proposal."

According to Human Rights Watch, the current law allows authorities to imprison suspected homosexuals and AIDS patients for up to 14 years. The new legislation would make the prison term a life sentence. The practice of "aggravated homosexuality" would allow the authorities to sentence homosexuals to death. Members of the public would be required to report acts of homosexuality within 24 hours of witnessing the act. If they fail to do so, they would also be imprisoned for a minimum of three years. The bill also states that the nation would be prepared to cut ties with other countries and stop any commitments they have with them to allow the new laws to be enforced.

"We used to say Mr and Mrs, but now it is Mr and Mr. What is that now? We believe there are limits to human rights," said minister of state for ethics and integrity in Uganda, James Nsaba Buturo, who supports the legislation, in an interview with The Guardian on November 29. He said that politicians are "determined" to have the law go into effect before the end of the year.

Sexual Minorities Uganda chairman Frank Mugisha also said on November 29, that if legislation "passes we [homosexuals] will have to leave the country."

Today, leaders with the Episcopal Church also spoke out against the proposed legislation. Leaders expressed "profound dismay" in a statement made by the Church on Monday.

"Our Christian faith recognizes violence, harassment and unjust treatment of any human being as a betrayal of Jesus' commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. As followers of the teachings of Christ, we must express profound dismay at a bill currently before the Parliament in Uganda," said the statement.

Many other organizations have signed letters or statements calling for the legislation to be withdrawn. They include The World AIDS Campaign, Unitarian Universalist Church United Nations Office and Amnesty International.