The passage of this Bill is devastating – and hasn’t happened in isolation. Across the world, we are seeing a rising tide of anti-LGBTI+ rhetoric and violence towards LGBTI+ people. A similar bill to the one in Uganda is already being considered in Ghana and LGBTI+ communities in other sub-Saharan African countries such as Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia have all reported rising levels of hate speech, intimidation and violence directed towards them. Several of those countries are contemplating similar legislation as well.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill bans any organisation from working for the rights of or providing services to LGBTQ+ people, outlaws landlords from renting property to anyone who is LGBTQ+ and even punishes friends and relatives if they don’t report people they know are LGBTQ+. It also introduces the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’, which includes having sex if you are HIV positive.
Although the Ugandan President Museveni has now sent the Bill back to Parliament for minor revisions, he has indicated that he will sign the bill into law once amendments are made.
The passage of the Bill follows months of increasing anti-LGBT+ rhetoric in Uganda, where sex between people of the same gender is already outlawed. High profile politicians, religious leaders and commentators have been stoking pre-existing prejudices – including accusing LGBT+ people of recruiting or grooming children Similar rhetoric has also been increasing in other countries, not only in the region but also elsewhere, such as in the United States.
Much of the commentary in Uganda, as well as in other African states which are seeing a rise in anti-LGBT+ sentiment, focuses on the erroneous idea that being LGBT+ is somehow ‘un-African’ and that homosexuality is being imported by the West. In fact, the opposite is true: there is substantial evidence that one of the drivers for rising anti-LGBT+ rhetoric are religious and other organisations that are based outside of Africa in the Global North, with deep pockets and an influential global reach. And it shouldn’t be forgotten that Uganda’s current penal code banning gay relationships was originally implemented by the British Empire under colonial rule.
What we and other international LGBT+ rights organisations are doing
At Kaleidoscope Trust, we have reached out to partner organisations in Uganda. We’ve been collaborating with our partners in The Commonwealth Equality Network and the Network’s Regional Representative for Africa to support those working on the ground in Uganda. You can read The Commonwealth Equality Network’s statement on the Bill here. We’ve also been organising alongside other international LGBTI+ rights organisations to coordinate a global response within the parameters outlined by in-country human rights defenders. We’ve been working with the UK Government to encourage them to respond robustly to the Bill and to encourage President Museveni not to sign it into law. You can also join us in calling for the UK Government to impose a travel ban on the Ugandan leaders who have supported this draconian law.
What you can do
It’s important to remember that the rhetoric in Uganda has focused on the false idea that being LGBT+ is somehow ‘un-African’ and is being imported into Uganda to corrupt children – therefore, direct support to Uganda-based organisations from outside the country is difficult. There are several crowdfunding asks to support LGBT+ Ugandans but it may be difficult in the current climate for some of these to reach their intended beneficiaries.
However, LGBT+ people in Uganda do need support and the organisations and activists we’ve spoken with want awareness to be raised about the Bill and its potential consequences. It’s also important to remember that what is happening in Uganda isn’t isolated – it’s part of a rising tide of anti-LGBT+ rhetoric being driven by well-resourced and ideologically driven organisations.
Donate to international LGBTI+ rights charities who are able to offer direct practical assistance to communities affected by this, such as GiveOut (who support grassroots activists across the world, including in Africa) and Rainbow Railroad (who help LGBTQI+ people to escape state-sponsored violence).
Donate to international LGBTI+ rights charities who work to grow the movement of grassroots activists across the world and are able to advocate both with the UK Government and internationally, such as Kaleidoscope Trust.