Ugandan lawmakers passed a bill prescribing prison terms for offenses related to same-sex relations, responding to popular sentiment but piling more pressure on the East African country's LGBTQ community. The bill was passed late Tuesday inside a packed parliamentary chamber after a roll call ordered by the House speaker, who'd repeatedly warned it was necessary to identify those who might oppose the bill. It was supported by nearly all of the 389 legislators present. "Congratulations," said Speaker Anita Among, per the AP. "Whatever we are doing, we are doing it for the people of Uganda."
The bill now will go to President Yoweri Museveni, who can veto or sign it into law. He suggested in a recent speech that he supports the bill, accusing unnamed Western nations of "trying to impose their practices on other people." The bill was introduced last month by an opposition lawmaker who said his goal was to punish "promotion, recruitment, and funding" related to LGBTQ activities; CNN says it contains "some of the world’s harshest anti-gay laws." As the BBC explains, homosexual acts are already outlawed in Uganda, but this bill broadens the number of criminal offenses. The offense of "homosexuality" is punishable by life imprisonment, the same punishment prescribed in a colonial-era penal code criminalizing sex acts "against the order of nature," per the AP.
The BBC reports the bill in its final form hasn't been made public, but lists some of what may be in it, including a possible life sentence for anyone convicted of grooming or trafficking children in order to engage them in homosexual activities. It continues, "As well as making merely identifying as gay illegal for the first time, friends, family and members of the community would have a duty to report individuals in same-sex relationships to the authorities." Per CNN, a death sentence could be handed out for instances of "aggravated homosexuality," which includes sex acts by a "serial offender" that occur under duress or involve children.
The bill is "ill-conceived" and unconstitutional because it "criminalizes individuals instead of conduct," said lawmaker Fox Odoi, representing dissenters. The bill, if signed into law, would violate multiple fundamental rights, including rights to freedom of expression and association, privacy, equality, and non-discrimination, according to Human Rights Watch. Homosexuality is criminalized in more than 30 of Africa's 54 countries. (Read more LGBTQ stories.)