Uganda Parliament passes anti-homosexuality bill with president’s amendments

Uganda’s Parliament Tuesday passed the Anti- Homosexuality Bill of 2023, subject to amendments to five clauses as proposed by President Yoweri Museveni. Parliament submitted the bill, which imposes harsher penalties on same-sex conduct, to the Attorney General for Museveni’s approval.

The bill passed Tuesday makes “aggravated homosexuality,” same sex relations involving a minor or other categories of vulnerable people when the perpetrator is HIV positive, punishable by death. “Attempted aggravated homosexuality” can result in imprisonment for up to 14 years, and “attempted homosexuality” can result in imprisonment of up to 10 years. The law no longer criminalizes LGBTQ+ people for identifying as such, but it does permit up to 20 year prison sentences for individuals who promote the rights of LGBTQ+ people.

Speaker Anita Among, who oversaw the legislative session, praised lawmakers for their dedication to upholding the nation’s morals and values. She commented:

I want to urge the Members of Parliament to remain steadfast. No amount of intimidation will make us retract what we have done. Handouts or small envelopes should not be the ones to destroy you. The Western World will not come and rule Uganda.

In passing the bill, parliamentarians reiterated their stance on homosexuality, echoing Among, by stating that they would not be swayed by threats from the Western world to slash funds. However, the minority remarked that the bill could not be saved with just Museveni’s suggestions. They argued that, while criminalizing homosexual acts rather than homosexuals’ existence is a step toward recognizing sexual minorities, it is also restrictive because it limits their rights to benefit from LGBTQ+ rights and freedoms. The minority also claimed that the proposed amendments to the bill do not address the bill’s unconstitutionality and called for Parliament to reject the bill in its entirety.

In March, Parliament passed the bill and sent it to Museveni for his signature. Museveni withheld his assent and sent the bill back to the legislature, citing three key issues that Parliament needed to modify. He maintained that the legislation was vague about what was criminalized. Museveni suggested that the bill focus on the act of homosexuality rather than being a homosexual. In addition, he claimed that clause 14 on the duty to report homosexuality created constitutional contradictions and suggested that Parliament delete or redraft the clause. Museveni also recommended that Parliament remove clause 9, which dealt with the premises where homosexuality takes place.

A committee in Parliament then reviewed the President’s recommendations. Overall, the committee advised that Parliament take Museveni’s suggestions into consideration and pass the bill with the suggested changes. On Tuesday, the Parliament did so.

Museveni faces international pressure to not sign the bill into law once it reaches his desk. It is unclear of whether Museveni will sign the bill.