Emmanuelle Purdon

Death penalty for gay sex in Uganda

on 09 December 2009

Under a newly proposed bill - which appears to have strong public support - criminal penalties on homosexual acts in the East African nation would be made much harsher, and include the death penalty.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill features several provisions that are likely to spur a witch hunt of homosexuals in the country:

- Gays and lesbians convicted of having gay sex would be sentenced, at
minimum, to life in prison

- People who test positive for HIV may be executed

- Homosexuals who have sex with a minor, or engage in homosexual sex more than once, may also receive the death penalty

- Anyone who knows of homosexual activity taking place but does not report
it would risk up to three years in prison

American and African Christians have many things in common, but a frequent tie is a shared dislike -- bordering on detestation -- of homosexuality and homosexuals. Hence, the bill has the blessing of many religious leaders -- Muslim and Christian -- in a country where a July poll found 95 percent opposed to legalizing homosexuality.

"We are talking about anal sex. Not even animals do that," stated James Nsaba Buturo , the Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity, adding that he thought that there were "limits to human rights".

Also, a leading Muslim cleric, Sheikh Ramathan Shaban Mubajje, has called for gays to be rounded up and banished to an island until they die, whilst in April, the Observer newspaper published tips to help readers spot homosexuals.

The bill forbids the "promotion of homosexuality," which in effect bans organizations working in HIV and AIDS prevention. 

"Who will go to HIV testing if he knows that he will suffer the death sentence?" Elizabeth Mataka, the U.N. Special Envoy on AIDS in Africa, told reporters last week. "The law will drive them away from seeking counseling and testing services."

Lawmakers have indicated that they will pass the bill before year's end, which could affect an estimated 500 000 gays and lesbians among Uganda's 31 million residents.

"Right now, you can't go to places that are crowded, because the mob can attack us or even burn us. We can't walk alone. We are ostracized by relatives. But if this bill passes, it will become impossible for me to live here at all. And that part hurts the most," Mugisha, a gay man in Uganda said.

The death penalty for homosexuals: Just another bill that would be a significant step backwards in human rights, unlikely to bring any positive change in the HIV/AIDS situation in Uganda, let alone change people's sexual orientation which is, fundamentally, a personal choice.

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