President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda today has assented to the Anti-Homosexuality bill which now becomes law. According to the president, homosexuality is due to a person’s environment and not due to a person born homosexual and as such it can be fought.
The bill proposes a raft of measures to criminalize, stigmatize, victimize and intimidate anyone suspected of being homosexual or promoting homosexuality in way. Prison sentences ranging from a few years to life imprisonment will be handed to those who are convicted under the new legislation. The bill will also have disastrous public health implications. Activists and researchers warn that the bill will exacerbate stigma, exclusion and increase the risk of HIV infection as key affected populations (including sex workers, men who have sex with men, people who use drugs and LGBTQI) will be at risk of criminal sanctions when they seek treatment and care.
Aside from the obvious human rights violations that this bill will enable, the bill will also allow for other marginalized groups such a sex workers to be further harassed and intimidated. Museveni sees ‘promoting homosexuality and recruiting others into it’ as one of three problems he has with homosexuality. The president argues that many of those who promote homosexuality and recruits people into it are doing it for money in effect making them ‘homosexual prostitutes’. The president made clear in the speech he gave after signing the bill into law that these ‘homosexual prostitutes’ have to be punished.
Various international organisations have condemned the Ugandan government for taking this regressive step criminalizing a natural human condition. Western governments have also threatened to withdraw aid from Uganda however; none of these threats have deterred Uganda in signing this bill into law.