It Is Now Completely Illegal to Be Gay In Uganda

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
Feb. 24 2014 1:38 PM

Ugandan President Approves Horrific Anti-Gay Bill

459756919-ugandan-president-yoweri-museveni-speaks-to-press-in
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

Photo by WAAKHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images

Living in the United States, amid growing marriage equality and general, if not homogenous, societal acceptance of LGBTQ people, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the “it gets better” narrative is not at all inevitable. For evidence of that sad fact, consider the plight of Ugandan LGBTQ people, who earlier today learned that their existence has been made illegal by a few strokes of their president’s pen. The text of The Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014, the final approval of which had until now been uncertain, explains that the law’s intent is to “prohibit any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex; prohibit the promotion or recognition of such relations and to provide for other related matters.”

If the implications of that language seem unclear, John Becker over at The Bilerico Project has an itemized list of the chilling consequences: “[The Act] imposes a lifetime prison sentence for the 'crime' of 'aggravated homosexuality,' mandates jail time for sexual acts between members of the same sex, compels people to turn in anyone they know who has engaged in same-sex sexual conduct, and penalizes them if they fail to do so.” In other words, President Museveni and the supporters of this bill (including American evangelicals) have essentially inaugurated an open season on gay people in Uganda—look to Putin’s Russia if you have any doubt that these kinds of laws will be “administered” solely by the agents of the state. 

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According to local reports, President Museveni couched his decision to sign the bill in terms of science, noting that he believes his country’s scientists can “rehabilitate” gays because "nurture is the main cause of homosexuality.” If nothing else, such comments demonstrate how privileged we are in being able to debate the finer points of “choice” and sexuality.

Critics around the world have already condemned the legislation, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and White House press secretary Jay Carney, who said in a statement that the Obama administration “will continue to urge the Ugandan government to repeal this abhorrent law and to advocate for the protection of the universal human rights of LGBT persons in Uganda and around the world.”

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate assistant editor. He writes and edits for Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section, and for the culture section.

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