Life sen­tence threat has Ugan­dan gays in a panic

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

con­victed, in­clud­ing life im­pris­on­ment for what it calls ag­gra­vated ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity.

Coun­tries in­clud­ing the US pre­vi­ously crit­i­cised the bill when it came be­fore par­lia­ment. Ger­many cut off aid to Uganda late last year cit­ing the bill as one of its con­cerns.

Wide­spread crit­i­cism of the law, and re­sis­tance from the ex­ec­u­tive which is wary of an­tag­o­nis­ing Western donors, stalled its pas­sage. But par­lia­ment has also been un­der pres­sure to push it through, es­pe­cially from main­stream and evan­gel­i­cal churches.

Ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity was al­ready il­le­gal in Uganda, but the new law pro­hibits the “pro­mo­tion” of gay rights and pun­ishes any- one who “funds”, “spon­sors” or “abets” ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity.

Ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is taboo in many African coun­tries. It is il­le­gal in 37 na­tions on the con­ti­nent, and ac­tivists say few Africans are openly gay, fear­ing im­pris­on­ment, vi­o­lence and los­ing their jobs.

Frank Mugisha, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Sex­ual Mi­nori­ties Uganda, said he would try to rally rights ac­tivists to have the law blocked in the courts.

The pres­i­dent must sign any bill be­fore it be­comes law.

“We in the gay com­mu­nity are in a panic,” Mugisha said. “Peo­ple are afraid of walk­ing in the streets, be­cause they know how Ugan­dans like to take the law into their own hands.” In­ter­na­tional rights groups have crit­i­cised Uganda for pass­ing a se­ries of laws they say have chipped away at civil lib­er­ties and cre­ated an op­pres­sive en­vi­ron­ment.

This week par­lia­ment passed an anti- pornog­ra­phy law that bans “erotic be­hav­iour in­tended to cause sex­ual ex­cite­ment and any in­de­cent act or be­hav­iour tend­ing to cor­rupt morals”.

Crit­ics re­sponded with de­ri­sion, dub­bing it the “an­ti­miniskirt” law be­cause it pro­scribes wear­ing miniskirts.

In Au­gust, Uganda passed a pub­lic or­der man­age­ment law that re­quires any­one plan­ning to hold a po­lit­i­cal rally or demon­stra­tion to give no­tice to the po­lice. The leg­is­la­tion gives au­thor­i­ties sweep­ing pow­ers to stop such meet­ings if they have “rea­son­able grounds” to do so. – Reuters

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