Uganda has announced new plans for a bill that would impose the death penalty on homosexuals.
The bill—colloquially known as “Kill the Gays” in Uganda—was nullified five years ago on a technicality but the Ugandan government said on Thursday that it plans to resurrect it within weeks.
The Christian majority nation claims the legislation would curb a rise in unnatural sex, with Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo telling the Reuters the bill would end people’s involvement and “recruitment” into homosexuality.
“Homosexuality is not natural to Ugandans, but there has been a massive recruitment by gay people in schools, and especially among the youth, where they are promoting the falsehood that people are born like that,” Lokodo claimed.
“Our current penal law is limited. It only criminalises the act. We want it made clear that anyone who is even involved in promotion and recruitment has to be criminalised. Those that do grave acts will be given the death sentence.”
African nations have some of the world’s most conservative laws governing homosexuality.
Across most of the continent, same-sex relationships are considered taboo and gay sex is typically a crime, with punishments including imprisonment and death.
Lokodo said the bill, which has the support of the nation’s president, Yoweri Museveni, will be reintroduced in parliament in the coming weeks and expects the law to be voted on before the end of the year.
The minister was optimistic the bill would pass with the necessary two-thirds of political members present, and noted that the government had lobbied legislators ahead of its reintroduction.
“We have been talking to the MPs, and we have mobilised them in big numbers,” said Lokodo.
“Many are supportive.”
A shortfall in member numbers and an overturning from Uganda’s Constitutional Court ended the first “Kill the Gays” bill in 2014.
However, international responses also sent a strong message at the time with the United States reducing aid, cancelling military exercises and imposing visa restrictions to Uganda. Sweden, Denmark, Norway and The World Bank also suspended or redirected aid to Uganda.
But Lokodo said Uganda is prepared for any negative international response this time around.
“It is a concern,” he said. “But we are ready. We don’t like blackmailing. Much as we know that this is going to irritate our supporters in budget and governance, we can’t just bend our heads and bow before people who want to impose a culture which is foreign to us.”
Activists are fearful that the new bill will increase Ugandan LGBT+ hate crimes.
Pepe Julian Onziema from Sexual Minorities Uganda—an alliance of LGBT+ organisations— said the bill’s reintroduction will encourage extremist homophobic sentiments.
“When the law was introduced last time, it whipped up homophobic sentiment and hate crimes,” he said.
“Hundreds of LGBT+ people have been forced to leave the country as refugees and more will follow if this law is enacted. It will criminalise us from even advocating for LGBT+ rights, let alone supporting and protecting sexual minorities.”
Onziema said that three gay men and one transgender woman had already been killed by homophobic attacks in Uganda this year; the latest last week when a gay man was bludgeoned to death.