Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell writes on how the world should respond to the President of Uganda’s decision to sign the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Governments around the world should impose a travel ban and assets freeze on the key movers of the new homophobic legislation: Yoweri Museveni, Rebecca Kadaga, David Bahati, Simon Lokodo, Martin Sempa, Solomon Male and Scott Lively. They are implicated in stirring homophobic hatred, which has coincided with an escalation of threats and mob violence against LGBT Ugandans.
These people are the modern-day ideological inheritors of Dr Goebbels’s hateful propaganda methods, with their vile slurs equating homosexuality with child molestation, rape and bestiality. Foreign aid should be cut from the Ugandan Government and switched to agencies that don’t discriminate, to signal to the regime that human rights abuses have a cost.
The new anti-gay law extends the current maximum penalty of life imprisonment for anal intercourse to a mandatory life sentence for any same-sex act, even mere kissing and touching with homosexual intent. Attempts to commit any form homosexual contact carry an automatic seven year jail term. It also introduces maximum sentences of five to seven years imprisonment for aiding, abetting, counselling or promoting homosexuality, including advocating LGBT rights and funding or assisting LGBT people or events.
This law violates the non-discrimination provisions of the Ugandan Constitution, the Commonwealth Charter and the African Charter on Human & People’s Rights, to which Uganda is a signatory. It does not conform to the human rights check list previously agreed by Ugandan parliamentarians. The bill was passed without a quorum and it was not on the Parliament’s order of business. It is unlawful and invalid.
The criminalisation of homosexuality is contrary to the Ugandan Constitution and to the international human rights obligations that Uganda has signed and pledged to uphold. It is creating an atmosphere of hate and violence, including mob beatings of suspected LGBT people. Much of this bigotry is fuelled by anti-gay Christian fundamentalists who are supported by right-wing evangelical pastors in the US.
The Anti-Homosexuality Act is, in some respects, even more draconian than the extreme homophobic laws of countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran. It is part of a wider attack on civil society, including the harassment of opposition activists, detention without trial, torture, extra-judicial killings, restrictions on the media and the suppression of protests and strikes.
LGBT and straight Ugandans have a common interest in defending democracy and human rights. We stand with them in solidarity.
Peter Tatchell is director of the London-based human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, and coordinator of the Equal Love campaign.