|The gay rights activist David Kato was murdered in 2011 |
after a national newspaper published a 'hit list' of gay Ugandans
Legislation imposing strict criminal penalties on homosexuality could pass in Uganda imminently, after legislators resurrected a bill which has appeared on the country's parliamentary agenda on numerous occasions over the last three years.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was first submitted to the Ugandan parliament in 2009, and in its early stages would have allowed for the imposition of the death penalty in certain cases. When the bill was last on the agenda in May 2011 the bill's author David Bahati said capital punishment was "something we have moved away from", but the law would still have left gay Ugandans facing strict criminal penalties.
While it was hoped that the bill had perhaps disappeared for good when it was not passed last year, there has always been the danger that it would resurface, and it has been reported that Uganda's parliament speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, has suggested that it could now be passed
"as a Christmas gift" to Ugandans.
The bill has this week appeared on the Ugandan parliament's order of business as “order of business to follow”, which means that it could be debated at any time in the next few working days. If it is debated, it is expected that the country's legislators would vote in favour of its passage.
Ugandan gay rights activists have vowed to carry on resisting the bill, with Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), saying that his organisation "will continue to fight until we are free of this legislation". For campaigners in Uganda, gay rights are a life and death issue – in 2010 a national newspaper, Rolling Stone, published a list of names of gay Ugandans, alongside the headline "hang them", and in January 2011 on of SMUG's best-known activists, David Kato, was murdered in his home.
In response to the news of the possible imminent passing of the anti-gay law, a petition has been launched calling on Rebecca Kadaga and Uganda's president, Yoweri Museveni, to withdraw the bill.
International outcry is widely believed to have helped prevent the bill's passage on past occasions, so it's well-worth adding your own name to the 120,000+ who have signed already.