[JURIST] The Ugandan Parliament [official website] announced on Friday the passing of the anti-gay bill [press release] that, if signed by President Yoweri Museveni [official website] in the next 30 days, will criminalize homosexuality and impose harsh jail terms for same-sex relationships. The bill stipulates a fourteen-year jail term for one convicted of homosexuality and a sentence of life imprisonment for those convicted of “aggravated homosexuality” under the law. Homosexuality has long been illegal in Uganda. The bill passed is designed to impose harsher penalties on homosexual activity and is a variation of the original bill introduced in 2009, which also included the death penalty. This provision has since been removed. The bill is supported by a strong majority of members in the Ugandan parliament and the alleged rationale is the need to protect the nation’s youth and the greater population from the “emerging internal and external threats to the traditional heterosexual family.” There remains uncertainty as to whether Museveni will sign the bill in its current form.
The bill’s history has garnered international attention and many see it as a reaction to major legislative reforms in support of same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] in the US and other Western nations. Last November the bill was bolstered [JURIST report] by religious leaders in Uganda. In February of that year Ugandan MP David Bahati announced that clauses mandating the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” would be dropped [JURIST report] from the controversial bill. In 2010 US President Barack Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined the US Congress in denouncing the bill [JURIST report]. Roughly two-thirds [BBC report, map] of African nations criminalize homosexuality, according to an Amnesty International report published earlier this year.