Ugandan legislators announced today that proposed legislation that would have imposed life imprisonment as the minimum sentence for being gay and would have allowed for the death penalty is being altered to remove both punishments, but still would introduce imprisonment and potentially counseling to reverse offenders’ sexual orientation. According to Bloomberg, the new version of the bill will be presented to the Ugandan Parliament in approximately two weeks.
The legislation formerly allowed life imprisonment for even a single homosexual act and allowed the death penalty in cases where the gay individual is a “serial offender”, HIV positive, a “person of authority” over the other partner, or in cases where the “victim” is younger than 18. According to the Associated Press, the legislation also proposes a seven year prison term for any person who “aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage of acts of homosexuality;” a seven year term for landlords convicted of renting to gay individuals; and a three year term for anyone of “religious, political, economic or social authority” who does not report any knowledge of homosexual acts.
Uganda’s minister of state for ethics and integrity James Nsaba Buturo, told the Guardian UK recently that the government aims to pass the legislation before the end of the year and is willing to lose funding and withdraw from international treaties, including the UN’s Universal Declaration on Human Rights, if necessary. Buturo said, “We are talking about anal sex. Not even animals do that…We believe there are limits to human rights.”
Gay Ugandan activist Frank Mugisha told the Associated Press,”This bill is promoting hatred…We’re turning Uganda into a police state. It will drive people to suicide.” As activists within the country are speaking out, the proposed law has incited widespread international criticism. Despite the fact that anti-gay sentiment in Uganda has been stoked by US Evangelical leaders, dozens of American Christian leaders signed a joint statement (see PDF) condemning the law. The Canadian government has also reportedly described the proposed law as “reprehensible, vile and hateful.”