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News Story

New oppressive law in Uganda

Originally published in FUSE, December 2009

On the 14th of October the Uganda Parliament introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009. Building on previous legislation that enforces up to life imprisonment for ‘homosexual acts’ this bill follows years of increased pressure and oppression against the queer community in Uganda.

The new law attacks queers in two areas. First, there is increased punishment for ‘homosexual activity’. This includes a criminalisation of obtaining same-sex marriages overseas, punished with lifetime imprisonment, as well as the introduction of a new category of criminality called ‘aggravated homosexuality’, which met by the death penalty. Those who fit this category include ‘repeat offenders’ of ‘homosexual acts’ and those who participate in ‘homosexual acts’ that are HIV-positive.

The second attack is on the rights of civil society. This includes a ban on any activity that is deemed to ‘promote homosexuality’; including the criminalisation of any speech or peaceful assembly that advocates the rights of queer people. Added to this is a legal requirement for all people to report LGBT persons to police within 24 hours of learning about that person’s queerness. Failure to do so could result in fines or imprisonment for up to 3 years.

This law complements increased oppression of queers by the state, media and society in Uganda. Reports state that queer people and activists have come under increased pressure over recent years with regular death threats and violent attacks in the country. This law is particularly scary therefore, as it will make any attempts to improve this situation by queer activists almost impossible, leaving the Ugandan queer community facing an extremely unpredictable future.

The role of international anti-queer activists in its inception is the second particularly scary part of this legislation. The push for this law began in earnest during a conference held in March by the ‘Family Life Network’. Attending the conference was two prominent anti queer activists from the United States, Don Schmierer and Scott Lively. This is part of an increasing trend for anti-queer activists becoming active in international anti-queer fights, especially in the ‘developing world’. American conservatives are now making more appearances in countries in Africa, Eastern Europe and South America in an obvious attempt to ‘internationalise’ the extreme anti queer movement.

Such an internationalisation of the anti-queer movement needs to be countered by a continued internationalisation of the queer movement. It is essential that people from around the world join together to oppose any attempts to oppress people (whether queer or not) anywhere in the world. In late October, the Labor and Liberal Party rejected a motion in the Senate from Greens Senator Sarah Hanson Young condemning Uganda for the introduction of this legislation, saying it was not the role of the Senate to comment on international issues. With this legislation looking certain to pass the Ugandan Parliament it is our role to support our comrades in Uganda to end their continued oppression and to demand that our government does the same through condemning the Ugandan parliament for this action.

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About Simon Copland

Simon Copland is a freelance writer and climate campaigner. In his spare time he plays rugby union and is a David Bowie fanatic. He is a regular columnist for the Sydney Star Observer, blogs at The Moonbat and tweets at @SimonCopland.

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