Prison Terms for Being Gay?

The Red Pepper, one of Uganda's biggest selling newspapers, published an article naming the country's "200 Top Homosexuals," this, a day after President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a bill toughening penalties for gay people.

The list appears under the headline: "Exposed," raising concerns among the general populace, as well as the world, that a witch-hunt against homosexuals is about to commence.

Ali Mutasa of the British Broadcasting Corporation (herein referred to as the BBC), reported from the Ugandan capital of Kampala that many people named on Red Pepper's list are known to be homosexuals, and some even live abroad.

"Society can do something about it to discourage the trend." President Museveni said, followed by thunderous applause from his supporters.

While homosexuality in Uganda, a largely conservative society that majoritely stands on the opposition, was already illegal, the new law bans the promotion of homosexuality and covers lesbians for the first time.

The Anti-Homosexuality act stipulates:

  • Life imprisonment for the act of gay sex, including oral.
  • Life imprisonment for "aggravated homosexuaity," including sex with an underage person or while HIV-positive.
  • Life imprisonment for living in a same-sex marriage.
  • Seven years for "attempting to commit homosexuality."
  • Between five and seven years in jail, or the equivalent of $40,00 USD fine, or both, for the promotion of homosexuality.
  • Businesses or non-governmental organisations found guilty of the promotion of homosexuality would have their certification registration cancelled and directors could face seven years jail time.

This according to the BBC's most recent report on the subject.

Western governments, including the U.S., have condemned President Museveni's decision to approve the bill. John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, said of President Museveni's decision to sign the bill into law was a "…tragic day for Uganda and for all who care about the cause of human rights."

The secretary of state went on to say: "Now that this law has been enacted, we are beginning an internal review of our relationship with the Government of Uganda to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programs, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values."

Uganda receives an estimated $400 million USD in annual aid from the U.S.

In addition to the U.S. reconsidering its aid to Uganda, Sweden's Development Assistance Minister, Hillevi Engstrom, called President Museveni's decision "terrible" and said that direct aid to Uganda, equivalent to about $10.8 million USD, could be withdrawn.

The Netherlands have likewise stopped a $9.6 million subsidy to Uganda's judicial system, and Norway and Denmark said they would transfer direct aid - totalling about $17 million USD - to non-governmental organizations. On Monday, President Museveni signed a watered-down version of the bill, which includes life sentences for gay sex and same-sex marriage, however, a clause criminilizing those who do not report gay people was removed as well as a proposed sentence of up to 14 years for first-time offenders according to the BBC report.

Government spokesman, Ofwono Opondo told Reuters News Agency, President Museveni wanted to "demonstrate Uganda's independence in the face of Western pressure and provocation."

Member of Parliament, David Bahati, who sponsored the bill insisted that homosexuality was a "behavior that can be learned and can be unlearned."

Jacqueline Kasha, a prominent Ugandan lesbian activist who appears on Red Pepper's list tweeted, "The media witch-hunt is back," early on February 25.

Consensual same-sex relationships are currently legal in 14 countries on the African continent including: The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Cote d'lvoire, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda, South Africa, and Lesotho.