Uganda: Anti-Gay Bill Forced Through Unlawfully

Will President Museveni sign the bill into law or act on reports that it was not lawfully passed? pic DFID – UK Department for International Development

Sexual Minorities Uganda: Outrage at the Passing of the Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009

[Kampala, Uganda December 20, 2013]- Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) has learnt with deep regret that the ninth Parliament of Uganda has passed the Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009.

Members of Parliament passed it with little if any regard to procedure and to whether it complies with the 1995 Constitution as the Supreme law of Uganda. SMUG has also received reliable information that the Bill was passed without the requisite quorum despite protests from some Members of Parliament. There is also no evidence that the Bill was subjected to the Human Rights Checklist which the Speaker of Parliament launched late this year.

The Bill as passed

  • maintains the prohibition of consensual same sex acts between adults
  • prescribes a penalty of life imprisonment for so-called repeat offenders.
  • requires “persons in authority, including persons exercising religious or social authority to report offences under the Act within twenty four hours or else face imprisonment for three years or a fine.”
  • maintains the offence of “Promotion of Homosexuality” against anyone who acts as an accomplice or in any way abets homosexuality and “related practices”.

“I’m outraged and disappointed that the Uganda parliament has acted in a very ignorant and irrational way” said Frank Mugisha the Executive Director, SMUG. “We shall fight this legislation TO THE END.” he asserts.

While the Bill is yet to be signed into law by the President, SMUG condemns in the strongest terms the haphazard manner in which Members of Parliament passed it with little if any regard to procedure and to whether it complies with the 1995 Constitution as the Supreme law of Uganda.

“Today will go down in history as the worst day for LGBTI identifying persons and human rights in general. The passing of the bill has caused significant panic even before its assented” Mr. Mawadri, SMUG Legal/Human Rights Officer.

Should the President assent to the Bill,

  • it would greatly undermine the fundamental Constitutional Rights of equality and non-discrimination of Ugandan citizens who identify as Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual (LGB).
  • would have dire implications for the rights to privacy, assembly, association and speech in addition to other basics rights of members of the LGBTI community in Uganda.
  • would spell a major setback for the freedoms of association of human rights organisations engaged in the promotion of these rights.
  • would also curtail Uganda’s gains against HIV/AIDS as it may compromise doctor-patient confidentiality, which could push LGB affect persons further underground for fear of prosecution.

SMUG calls upon; the President of the Republic of Uganda H.E Gen. Yoweri K. Museveni not to sign this bill into law so as to prevent its dire effects on human rights work and HIV/AIDS progress in Uganda.

We also call upon the entire international community to remind Uganda of its international treaty obligations and to join hands against the Anti Homosexuality Bill.

The Kaleidoscope Trust, a UK based organisation working to uphold the rights of LGBT people, has condemned the decision by the Ugandan parliament to pass the ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’ and endorsed the call for President Museveni not to sign the bill into law.

Speaking on behalf of the Trust, Assistant Director Alistair Stewart called it ‘a terrible day for human rights.’

 “The passage of the bill is a terrible set back to the LGBT community in Uganda and is a direct assault on their dignity and human rights. We are calling on President Museveni not to sign this bill into law. The British government must do everything in its diplomatic power to encourage the Ugandan President not to sign this bill into law and should actively support the Ugandan LGBT community.”


Veteran activist Peter Tatchell issued the following statement:

Uganda anti-gay bill violates constitution 

Symptomatic of Museveni repression & wider attack on civil rights 

London – 20 December 2013

“The new anti-gay law violates Article 21 of the Ugandan constitution and Articles 2 and 3 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights – both of which guarantee equal treatment and non-discrimination to all people,” said human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

“It is part of a broader attack on civil society and is symptomatic of Uganda’s drift to Mugabe-style authoritarianism. This wider repression includes a clamp down on protests, strikes, the media and opposition activists.”

Summary of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill

“The Bill extends the existing penalty of life imprisonment for same-sex intercourse to all other same-sex behaviour, including the mere touching of another person with the intent to have homosexual relations,” added Mr Tatchell.

“Life imprisonment is also the penalty for contracting a same-sex marriage.

“Promoting homosexuality and aiding and abetting others to commit homosexual acts will be punishable by five to seven years jail. These new crimes are likely to include membership and funding of LGBT organisations, advocacy of LGBT human rights, supportive counselling of LGBT persons and the provision of condoms or safer sex advice to LGBT people.

“A person in authority – gay or heterosexual – who fails to report violators to the police within 24 hours will be sentenced to three years behind bars.

“Astonishingly, the new legislation has an extra-territorial jurisdiction. It will also apply to Ugandan citizens or foreign residents of Uganda who commit these ‘crimes’ while abroad, in countries where such behaviour is not a criminal offence. Violators overseas will be subjected to extradition, trial and punishment in Uganda.

“This bill is in some respects even more draconian than the extreme homophobic laws of countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran,” added Mr Tatchell.

“The Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been widely misrepresented as increasing the penalty for homosexuality to life imprisonment. This is incorrect. The penalty for anal intercourse has always been life imprisonment. The new law increases the penalty for other same-sex acts – including mere sexual touching – from seven years to life imprisonment. See the penal code below,” said Mr Tatchell.

In violation of Uganda’s constitution

“This Bill violates Article 21 of the constitution of Uganda, which guarantees equality and non-discrimination:

21. Equality and freedom from discrimination.
(1) All persons are equal before and under the law in all spheres of
political, economic, social and cultural life and in every other respect and
shall enjoy equal protection of the law.

In violation of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights

“It also breaches the equality and anti-discrimination provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Articles 2, 3 and 4), which Uganda has signed and pledged to uphold,” said Mr Tatchell.

Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognised and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or any status.

Every individual shall be equal before the law. Every individual shall be entitled to equal protection of the law.

EXISTING UGANDA LAW – Prior to Anti-Homosexuality Bill  

Penal Code Act of 1950 (Chapter 120) (as amended) 

Section 145. Unnatural offences
“Any person who—
(a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of
(b) has carnal knowledge of an animal; or
(c) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or
her against the order of nature, commits an offence and is liable
to imprisonment for life.”

Section 146. Attempt to commit unnatural offences
“Any person who attempts to commit any of the offences
speci­fied in section145 commits a felony and is liable to
imprisonment for seven years.”

Section 148. Indecent practices
“Any person who, whether in public or in private, commits any act of gross indecency with another person or procures another person to commit any act of gross indecency with him or her or attempts to procure the commission of any such act by any person with himself or herself or with another person, whether in public or in private, commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.”

Further information: 

Peter Tatchell
Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation
0207 403 1790

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)