Uganda fear over gay death-penalty plans

17 Apr

Source BBC News by Joshua Mmali

An attempt to punish “aggravated homosexuality” in Uganda with the death penalty has caused outrage across the world – and revealed a huge divide in Ugandan society.

“Even my friends who are not gay are now scared because they think if this bill is passed, they’ll be targeted,” says Julian Pepe, an openly gay Ugandan who campaigns for homosexual rights.

“I feel scared. I feel I am in danger. I’ve tried to put a few security measures in place and I am constantly watching over my shoulder.”

Gay people in Uganda can already be jailed for 14 years for engaging in homosexual acts. The new bill wants to raise that to life imprisonment, even though no-one has ever been convicted of homosexual acts in Uganda.

Ms Pepe say the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is out of touch and believes Ugandans should not waste their time even debating it.

But the MP who proposed the bill, David Bahati, from the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), is equally convinced of his position.

“Here, we don’t recognise homosexuality as a right. We are after the sin, not the sinners. We love them – and we want them to repent and come back,” he says.

“It’s not an inborn orientation, it’s a behaviour learnt – and it can be unlearnt. That’s why we are encouraging churches and mosques to continue rehabilitating and counselling these people.”


Mr Bahati and his supporters say the bill is meant to prohibit the “promotion or recognition of homosexuality and to protect children and the youth who are vulnerable to sexual abuse and deviation”.

To that end, it proposes the death penalty for offences such as engaging in homosexual acts with a disabled person or anyone under 18 years old.

Death penalty
If a minor or disabled person involved
If “offender” is HIV-positive
For “serial offenders”
Life in prison
For homosexual acts
Seven years in prison
For helping, counselling, or encouraging another person to engage in a homosexual act

The death penalty is also proposed when the “offender” is HIV-positive.

But anyone suspected of committing homosexual acts would be subjected to a mandatory medical examination to establish whether they are HIV-positive or not.

So potentially someone who had consensual sex without knowing they had HIV could end up facing execution.

“Serial offenders” also face the death penalty.

Another clause outlaws helping, counselling, or encouraging another person to engage in a homosexual act – making such an offence punishable by up to seven years in jail.

Parliament is due to debate the bill early next year.

Although harsh penalties are already on the statute book, the authorities have not been overly zealous in enforcing the law.

People who have openly declared that they are gay have not been prosecuted because declaring sexual orientation is not a crime.

It is not easy getting evidence of people committing homosexual acts.

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