Uganda faces huge pressure not to sign into law anti-homosexuality bill

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has slammed the Ugandan anti-homosexuality Bill, passed on Tuesday, which imposes severe punishment for same-sex acts, including labelling some acts as crimes punishable by death, while imposing stiff sentences for people identifying as LGBTQI+. The top UN Human Rights Official, Volker Türk has called on President Yoweri Museveni to reject the bill, warning that the legislation runs counter to Uganda’s own constitutional provisions stipulating equality and non-discrimination for all. This comes as the United States and Canada joined the chorus of condemnation.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, passed by Uganda’s Parliament earlier this week, proposes the death penalty for the offence of aggravated homosexuality, life imprisonment for the “offense of homosexuality”, up to 14 years for attempted homosexuality and up to 20 years in jail for promoting homosexuality. Prompting High Commissioner Volker Türk to say his heart goes out to lesbian, gay and bisexual Ugandans.

“The passing of this discriminatory bill – probably among the worst of its kind in the world is a deeply troubling development. If signed into law, it will render lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Uganda criminals simply for existing, for being who they are. It could provide carte blanche for the systematic violation of nearly all of their human rights and serve to incite people against each other. The bill confuses consensual and non-consensual relations. Consensual relations should never be criminalized,” Türk elaborates.

He went further, calling the bill a massive distraction from taking the necessary action to end sexual violence, arguing it ran counter to the country’s legal obligations on human rights while invoking the words of a late South African Nobel Peace Laureate.

“Let us be clear: this is not about ‘values’ – promoting violence and discrimination against people for who they are and who they love is wrong and any disingenuous attempts to justify this on the basis of ‘values’ should be called out and condemned. The late Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke about how pernicious and ghastly it is that people are penalised and killed simply and solely on the basis of their sexual orientation, and he has called for us all to oppose this injustice,” Türk added.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to Twitter calling the legislation “appalling and abhorrent” while the United States first through Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned it would undermine fundamental rights of all Ugandans and reverse the gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS – as the White House also weighed in through Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

“The bill is one of the most extreme anti-LGBTQI+ laws in the world. Human rights are universal. No one should be attacked, imprisoned, or killed simply because of whom they are or whom they love,” Trudeau explains.

The White House National Security Spokesperson John Kirby warned of possible repercussions.

“This is the parliament passing it. It still has some process to go here. We’re certainly watching this real closely and we would have to take a look at whether or not there might be repercussions that we would have to take, perhaps in an economic way, should this law actually get passed and enacted,” says Kirby.

The Ugandan parliament has passed a controversial anti-homosexuality bill: