uganda's anti homosexuality bill sponsor seeks fresh partnerships as aid cuts loom

Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill sponsor seeks fresh partnerships as aid cuts loom

On Monday (May 29), Uganda made the announcement that President Yoweri Museveni had put into law a bill that threatened advocates of “homosexuality” and made homosexual conduct illegal. At the beginning of May, parliamentarians in Uganda, which lies in East Africa, voted by an overwhelming majority to approve the bill that caused uproar in other parts of the world. The supporters of the legislation rejoiced when it was finally signed into law.

Asuman Basalirwa smiled broadly as he addressed the audience and stated, “I want to confirm to you that what was a bill is now an act of parliament called the Anti-homosexuality Act 2023.” The adoption of the anti-gay bill comes after Uganda’s international allies, including a close ally in the United States, issued warnings of potential ramifications should the contentious legislation become law.

The law’s sponsor, Member of Parliament Asuman Basalirwa, was unaffected by the news. “I am prepared to advocate for the cause of traveling to the Arab world in order to look for help from donors. We will go to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, and we will easily be able to make up for the deficit that will be caused by these measures.

On October 1st, members of parliament in Uganda announced on Twitter that President Yoweri Museveni had given his stamp of approval to a revised version of a piece of legislation that had earlier this month been approved with an overwhelming majority vote.

If you engage in sexual activity with another person who is of the same gender as you, then you are guilty of the crime of homosexuality. And what really is the consequence? Life in prison without parole. A person is considered to have committed the crime of aggravated homosexuality if they engaged in homosexual acts while under the influence of undue pressure, coercion, or force. And what really is the consequence? The death penalty is the most severe option. According to this statute, permission is not a valid legal defense. For instance, you cannot make the case that X, who is an adult, consented to Y’s behavior. What gives you cause for concern? According to what Asuman Basalirwa remarked, “The law is saying that the fact that you have consented is in and of itself not a defense.”

The members of parliament had sworn that they would not give in to pressure from outside sources about the measure, which they portrayed as interference in an effort to shield Uganda’s traditional culture and values from the immorality of the West. Despite Museveni’s request for parliament to rework the legislation, the majority of the restrictive provisions that had caused a stir in the West remained in place.

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In the version that was changed, it was stated that the act of identifying as gay would not be a crime, but that “engaging in acts of homosexuality” would be a crime that may result in a sentence of life in prison. Museveni had recommended to MPs that they erase a provision declaring “aggravated homosexuality” a deadly charge; however, parliamentarians rejected that proposal, which means that repeat offenders could be sentenced to death if they commit the crime again.

Since a very long time ago, the practice of the death penalty has been abolished in Uganda. The United Nations Office for Human Rights, whose commissioner Volker Turk classified the bill as “among the worst of its kind in the world” in March, opposed the bill’s passage into law.

However, the measure has received widespread support from the general public in the predominantly Christian nation of Uganda, which has pursued some of the most stringent anti-gay legislation in Africa, where over 30 nations outlaw homosexuality. “As the Parliament of Uganda, we have heeded the concerns of our people and legislated to protect the sanctity of family,” the assembly’s speaker, Anita Among, who was also one of the bill’s most ardent proponents, said in a statement.

According to the new version of the legislation, “a person who is believed, alleged, or suspected of being a homosexual but who has not committed a sexual act with another person of the same sex does not commit the offense of homosexuality,” which means that a person is not guilty of homosexuality if they have not engaged in sexual activity with another person of the same sex. In a previous version, Ugandans were also forced to disclose any suspected homosexual conduct to the police under penalty of serving a sentence of six months in prison.

Legislators came to an agreement to change that clause so that instead, the reporting obligation applied exclusively to alleged sexual offenses committed against minors and other vulnerable individuals, and the maximum sentence was increased to five years in prison for the offender. A part of the original draft that calls for up to 20 years in prison for anyone who “knowingly promotes homosexuality” also calls for a 10-year ban on organizations that are found guilty of supporting same-sex conduct.

After years of Museveni’s administration, civic space in Uganda has been steadily shrinking, which has resulted in a subdued reaction from the country’s civil society. In April, the European Parliament held a vote to reject the measure, and it also requested that the member states of the EU put pressure on President Museveni to stop him from enacting the bill while also issuing a warning that relations with Kampala were at risk.

The White House issued a warning to the government about potential adverse effects on the economy in the event that the legislation was implemented. In response to an anti-gay bill that President Museveni signed into law in 2014 but which the Supreme Court later overturned, Western nations suspended their aid to Uganda. Diplomats have warned that similar measures are being explored right now.

The Member of Parliament who sponsored the bill stated that aid reductions were to be anticipated and that, among others, the speaker of the house had already been informed that her visa to enter the United States had been cancelled.

“Our colleagues in the Western world have signaled their threats and actually carried them out—visas have been revoked.” While we are having this conversation, the visas for the speaker to enter the United States were canceled the other day. This has also proven to be the case. Asuman Basalirwa added, “Dear Madam Speaker, the United States government has revoked your current visas.” The notification came in the form of an email from the US Embassy.