As members of Uganda’s LGBTIQ+ community fight for their rights, Real Raymond of the nonprofit Mbarara Rise Foundation calls for support and acceptance.
On Monday, May 29, Uganda’s president signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023, which sentences anyone found to have engaged in same-sex activity to life imprisonment. Individuals who are found guilty of broadly defined “aggravated homosexuality” face the death penalty. This editorial was written on May 5, 2023.
We are sick from watching this happen.
LGBTIQ+ Ugandans are currently living in the world’s most homophobic environment with discriminatory laws presided over by homophobic legislators.
On March 21, Uganda’s parliament reintroduced and passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023 that criminalized even identifying as LGBTIQ+. In other words, belonging to sexual minorities would be a crime punishable by life imprisonment.
On May 2, parliament once again passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023 into law with minimal amendments. The resultant version is still unconstitutional, as it seeks to reinstate section 145 of the Penal Code criminalizing sexual activity “against the order of nature.” The punishment for “aggravated homosexuality,” or sexual relations involving a minor, other vulnerable people, or a perpetrator who is infected with HIV, in the new bill is the death penalty. That makes it worse than the earlier version.
Constant threats to our safety
As a result, there are constant threats to our safety, including brutal arrests, violence, house evictions, mental health challenges, denial of health care, and homophobic campaigns against the LGBTIQ+ community in Uganda, coming from both the society and legislators. These challenges put LGBTIQ+ people at risk of persecution and threaten our basic human rights. They have made it difficult for LGBTIQ+ populations to survive in their daily lives. Many LGBTIQ+ people living in shelters have been excluded from employment due to stigma and discrimination, with little chance to access food, shelter, health services, and security.
As state and local governments move to enforce homophobic laws, LGBTIQ+ people are increasingly at risk of arrest and violence. This has, in turn, completely cut off access to health services and supply of other essentials like food. In addition, most have been left unemployed due to the hate campaigns. As a result, the number of unemployed LGBTIQ+ people in Uganda is on the increase, which makes them vulnerable to sexual abuse, drug use, and other challenges.
The situation is deteriorating day after day due to hate campaigns that have continued to threaten our lives. This is what is happening in Uganda, and the situation needs urgent attention.
Help LGBTIQ+ people in Uganda through the Mbarara Rise Foundation.
What we’re doing
With a sky-rocketing number of requests for support, the Mbarara Rise Foundation secured court bail for four community members who were previously arrested on charges of committing unnatural offenses. And among 120 community members who need urgent safety relocation and those so far evicted from their rental rooms based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, we managed to relocate only 15 members. Our legal aid team is working tirelessly to secure court bail for anyone impacted and provide other services when possible.
What awaits us
The Ugandan LGBTIQ+ community is living in fear of what might happen now that the parliament has once again passed the anti-homosexuality bill into law. President Yoweri Museveni has 30 days from when the bill is taken to him to sign or send it back to parliament with proposed amendments. If he refuses to sign and vetoes the bill or sends it back with amendments, parliament will have the power to vote on the amendments. Alternatively, parliament can pass the bill into law without the President’s signature, provided they have a two-thirds majority.
What happens in 30 days—and after
We, the Ugandan LGBTIQ+ community, are sick from watching all this happening after we have accomplished so much for the advancement of our communities. Uganda’s anti-gay bill is a blatant violation of human rights and an attack on LGBTIQ+ people. Its message is an act of aggression against human rights in Africa and around the world.
Discrimination and hate have no place in any society. We must stand together in support of love, acceptance, and equality for all.
Our legislators claim that they are protecting Ugandans’ norms and culture. They forget that homosexuality is also African. Our communities are left to deal with unprecedented challenges that will come along in 30 days and beyond.
What this means for our safety
In the past (and more so recently), law enforcement officials have frequently arrested members of the LGBTIQ+ community on charges of promotion of homosexuality. We fear they will be using the recent bill to increase arrests and further persecute our community. If this bill is signed, we will have almost no legal recourse because simply advocating for or promoting the rights of LGBTIQ+ people will now be a crime, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
The fear extends to our interactions with the general population because of our total loss of protection. Now more than ever, people opposed to our rights have a stronger voice against homosexuality, spearheaded by different religious and
other groups. These groups hated us already, but the risk has been increased for LGBTIQ+ folks as these hate groups will now work hand in hand with law enforcement.
They want to erase us.
We call upon the President to veto this bill. It is unconstitutional. It is a blatant violation of our human rights. Its goals are discrimination, violence, and hatred, and its result will be a division of our society. It is wrong by every standard of legality and legislative ethics.
What you can do
However, even if the bill is vetoed, we need more help. The public is already fired up and will continue to cause us harm. The environment in Uganda, which was already unfriendly, will be worse than ever. Those already arrested will continue to face horrors and discrimination in prison. A shocking number in our community have already been evicted from their homes, and we have seen an increase in mob attacks, denial of employment opportunities, and refusal to provide health care services.
We call upon the international community to use its influence and pressure to stop this bill. We pray that you will insist upon the protection of human rights for all Ugandans. We plead with you to use any and all tools at your disposal to influence our government to protect our rights. We are asking for your help.
Help LGBTIQ+ people in Uganda through the Mbarara Rise Foundation.
Featured Photo: A gay Ugandan man holds a pride flag as he poses for a photograph in Uganda Saturday, March 25, 2023. by ASSOCIATED PRESS