UGANDA’S parliament passing of an anti-gay bill last night – which effectively makes homosexuality acts punishable by life imprisonment – has drawn criticism from LGBTI activists worldwide and millions of social media users.

The prison life sentence targets those caught having gay sex involving an HIV-infected person, sex with minors or the disabled, and when anyone is caught having gay sex for the second time, according to the office of a spokeswoman for Uganda’s parliament.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, its actual name, also makes it a crime to publicly promote homosexuality, which could mean simply offering HIV counselling or discussions by rights groups.

In addition, bill also prescribes a seven-year jail term for a person who “conducts a marriage ceremony” for same-sex couples, and that it is a crime punishable by five years in prison for renting an apartment to an LGBTI person and not informing your tenant to authorities.

When the bill was first introduced in 2009, it was widely condemned for including the death penalty, but that was removed from the revised version passed by parliament last night.

The Ugandan MP who was the driving force behind the bill, David Bahati, argued that tough new legislation was needed because homosexuals from the west threatened to destroy Ugandan families.

However, Ugandan LGBTI citizens denied this claim, saying that their political and religious leaders had come under the strong influence of American evangelicals who wanted to spread their homophobic campaign in Africa.

President Yoweri Museveni must now sign the bill within 30 days for it to become law.

Uganda gay rights activist Frank Mugisha

Uganda gay rights activist Frank Mugisha

Prominent Ugandan gay activist Frank Mugisha said the bill was a “terrifying day for human rights in Uganda”, and urged the president not to sign it.

“It will open a new era of fear and persecution,” he said, speaking to the Washington Post.

“If this law is signed by President Museveni, I’d be thrown in jail for life and in all likelihood killed.”

Leslie Lefkow of Human Rights Watch has also said that President Museveni “should not sign the abhorrent anti-homosexuality law just passed”.

Meanwhile,  New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission executive director Jessica Stern has said the new bill made it impossible for people to have private lives.

“If you’re perceived to be LGBT, no one’s going to rent to you, for fear of their own criminal responsibility,” she said.

“So if this law is enacted in its current form, it’s basically a homelessness sentence for LGBT Ugandans.”

 

 

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