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Uganda: Anti-homosexuality bill to further restrict rights of LGBT community
The Ugandan Parliament has today passed the long-debated ‘anti-homosexuality’ bill, which will criminalise same-sex relations with a punishment of up to life imprisonment. Homosexuality is already a criminal offence in Uganda, however this new and tougher legislation will severely restrict the human rights of the LGBT community and is raising concerns for the safety of the community in the country.
The bill was first introduced in 2010, and made global headlines because it originally proposed the death penalty as the highest punishment for counts of ‘aggravated homosexuality’, or repeat offences. The bill has since been amended to a life sentence penalty – much to the dismay of activists in Uganda and around the world who have been pushing for a complete decriminalisation of homosexuality. The new legislation also includes a clause that will criminalise those who do not report people who are gay.
HIV prevalence in Uganda has been steadily rising since 2006, with men who have sex with men (MSM) an at-risk group for HIV. However, as most live in fear of stigma and discrimination, very little is known about how they have been impacted by the epidemic. In an article written for AVERT for World AIDS Day 2012, Ugandan LGBT activist Dr. Frank Mugisha stated: “In addition to the discrimination, the criminalization of homosexuality prevents them from accessing public health services and pushes them underground. They frequently engage in same-sex relationships outside their marriage due to the pressure of cultural and religious norms.”
The decision comes very soon after the Indian government reinstated a law criminalising consensual sex between adults of the same gender, and despite calls from UNAIDS to repeal damaging laws that criminalise ‘adult consensual same sex sexual contact’, which AVERT reported on last week.
AVERT condemns the bill as it severely impedes the human rights of the LGBT community, and also because it will restrict access to HIV services for this group.