Uganda’s ruling party has drawn up new anti-gay legislation and could push it through parliament before the end of the year, rights activists said Saturday.
The move comes nearly a year after Ugandan MPs passed a bill that would have seen gays face up to life in prison, only to see the bill struck down by the constitutional court on a technicality.
According to a leaked copy of the new draft bill, MPs have instead focussed on outlawing the “promotion” of homosexuality — something that activists said made it far more repressive and wide-reaching.
“People don’t realise that the ‘promotion’ part of it will affect everybody,” prominent gay rights activist Frank Mugisha told AFP.
“If newspapers report about homosexuality it could be seen as promotion. My Twitter account could be seen as promotion. All human rights groups that include LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights defence in their activities could be accused of promotion.”
According to the draft, anyone convicted of promoting homosexuality would be liable to seven years in prison.
“We have confirmed that the draft comes from the cabinet. Their plan is to present it to parliament as soon as possible, before the end of the year,” Mugisha said.
“They have just twisted the language but it is the same thing. It’s actually worse because the ‘promotion’ part is harsher and it will punish the funding of LGBT and human rights groups,” he added.
The new draft also outlaws “funding for purposes of promoting unnatural sexual practices” and “exhibiting unnatural sexual practices”, and deems consent invalid as a defense.
Mugisha said the revival of such legislation will also result in violence against gays.
“We will try as hard as possible to kill it before it is taken to parliament, because if the law gets to parliament it will be passed as soon as possible. Elections are coming, and the politicians want to be seen as fighting against this evil homosexuality,” he said.
The government has not commented on the draft, although Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has been under pressure for several months from his own party to ensure that anti-gay legislation is passed.
Last month, however, Museveni — who signed off on the original bill — signaled he was having second thoughts. He argued the east African nation needed to consider the impact on trade and economic growth.
Critics said Museveni signed the previous law to win domestic support ahead of a presidential election scheduled for 2016, which will be his 30th year in power.
Although very popular domestically, the previous law was branded draconian and “abominable” by rights groups and condemned by several key allies and donors including the European Union and United States.
Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda under a 1950s penal code which remains in force and prescribes jail for those found guilty of homosexual acts.