Uganda passes terrifying new law that could be used to shut down all pro-gay charities
Uganda has passed a controversial new law, that could result in the closure of NGOs helping the country’s LGBT population.
The country’s parliament last night passed the controversial Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) bill, in a late-night sitting.
The new bill vastly expands the powers of the government over charities and NGOs working in the country – giving officials the ability to approve, inspect, and dissolve all community groups and NGOs based on a number of criteria – as well as to impose harsh fines.
One clause would require charities to “not engage in any activity which is … contrary to the dignity of the people of Uganda”, which proponents fear could be used to clamp down on groups working to help LGBT people in Uganda.
It would also allow groups to be disbanded “where it is in the public interest to refuse to register the organisation, or … for any other reason that the Board may deem relevant”.
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Despite being hugely controversial with groups who work in Uganda, government chief whip Ruth Nankabirwa told AFP there was no dissent against the legislation in Parliament, claiming: “The bill was unanimously passed.”
Nicholas Opiyo of civil liberties group Chapter Four Uganda said previously: “[This law] will obstruct the ability of all Ugandans to work collectively through local and international organizations on any research or advocacy that may be deemed critical of the government.
“Vague and overly broad provisions open the door to silencing peaceful government critics and activists of all sorts.
“Uganda’s development partners and African regional bodies and indeed any government that supports civil society worldwide should vigorously object to this bill.
“The run-up to the 2016 elections is a time to encourage divergent views, not clamp down on them.”
Maria Burnett of Human Rights Watch said: “Criminalizing behavior that is inherently legitimate guts the very essence of the right to freedom of association.
“The possibility of long prison terms for carrying out civic work without a permit should be scrapped, along with many other provisions.”
Uganda previously passed an Anti-Homosexuality Act increasing harsh penalties on gay people – but it was struck down by the country’s Supreme Court last year.
The country has been considering a range of replacement legislation.