The United Nations and Amnesty International urge Uganda's president not to approve anti-LGBTQ legislation.

Mar 22, 2023 - 15:39
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The United Nations and Amnesty International urge Uganda's president not to approve anti-LGBTQ legislation.

The United Nations and Amnesty International urged Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Wednesday to reject an anti-homosexuality bill enacted by parliament on Tuesday night, calling it "appalling."

In a tense session on Tuesday night, Uganda's parliament decided to enact a bill that will inflict severe penalties on anyone who participate in homosexual relationships.

In a country where homosexuality was already banned, MPs considerably changed the original wording, which called for up to ten years in jail for anybody participating in homosexual conduct or claiming to be LGBTQ+.

The new penalties under the statute were not immediately revealed.

Volker Türk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, urged Museveni not to pass the measure on Wednesday.

"The passage of this discriminatory text, which is likely the worst of its kind in the world," he said in a statement.

"If signed into law by the president, (this law) will criminalize lesbians, gays, and bisexuals in Uganda simply by existing." (...). It might open the door to systematic violations of practically all of their human rights," he continued.

"This ambiguous, vaguely worded law criminalizes even those who "encourage" homosexuality," Amnesty International's director for East and Southern Africa, Tigere Chagutah, said in a statement.

Fox Odoi-Oywelowo, an elected member of President Museveni's National Resistance Movement, spoke out against the text. According to the MP, the final version of the law would subject offenders to life imprisonment or perhaps the death sentence for "aggravated" offenses.

According to Amnesty International, Museveni should "urgently veto this appalling law," which will "institutionalize discrimination, hatred, and prejudice" against the LGBTQ+ community.

The bill's debate in parliament has been laced with homophobic terminology, with Museveni himself referring to gays as "deviants" last week.

The 78-year-old leader, however, has repeatedly stated that the issue is not a priority for him and that he chooses to keep good relations with his Western donors and investors.

"Strict anti-homosexual legislation"

Uganda has rigorous anti-homosexuality statutes, a legacy of colonial laws, but there have been no prosecutions for consensual homosexual actions since independence from the United Kingdom in 1962.

Homosexuality is widely tolerated in Uganda, where the passage of the legislation was hailed by some.

"As Ugandans, we are very pleased. We do not accept...homosexuality, lesbianism, or LGBTQ people in our culture. "We can't," said Abdu Mukasa, a 54-year-old inhabitant. "We were made by God. Man and wife were made by God. And we can't tolerate one sex with another," he continued.

In 2014, a Ugandan judge stopped a measure passed by MPs and signed by President Museveni that would have sentenced gay relationships to life imprisonment.

Beyond Uganda's borders, the measure sparked outrage, with some rich countries suspending assistance after it was presented in parliament.

Last week, authorities in Jinja reported the arrest of six males for "practicing homosexuality." (south). On Sunday, six more males were detained on the same allegation, according to police.

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