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Uganda's Struggle Guiding Cultural Conservation and Human Rights in the Face of Controversial Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023

This year, The Uganda's president has signed a new Anti-Homosexuality Act,2023 which was although conceivable from the past steps taken by the country's parliament. The act abolishes some civil rights and imposes penalties on homosexuals' acts, thus can be termed as one of the stringent anti´┐Ż LGBTQ+ law in the world. It prescribes the punishment of imprisonment up to 20 years and fines for the offense of normalization of homosexuality.

Furthermore, the life imprisonment for same biological sex who are involved in the act of sex. The new category of offence is included termed as 'aggravated homosexuality' for which there is death penalty. This offence includes "serial offenders", same-sex rape, sex in a position of authority or procured by intimidation, sex with persons older than seventy-five, sex with the disabled and mentally ill, and homosexual acts committed by a person with a previous conviction of homosexuality.

The homosexuality acts were already illegal in Uganda through its history of condemning the urning for the preservation of its culture, traditions, ethics, moralities, and aspirations of its people. The act is condemned by several western countries such as United States, United Kingdom, Canada, EU, and several other NGO's that are prominent proponents of the LGBTQ+ Community . Also, the UN experts said, "The imposition of the death penalty for same-sex intimacy- including so-called 'serial homosexuality'- is an egregious violation of human rights,".

Uganda has been known for sparkling the anti-LGBTQ+ acts with its previous acts such as of Anti-Homosexuality Act ,2014 the predecessor of the newly enact act with sexual offences bill introduced in years 2019 and 2021 but later vetoed by president. The atrocities faced by the community in the country are in the form of violence, civilian harassment, and mob violence. Results from the 2016 Afrobarometer survey on popular attitudes and perceptions of LGBTI people in Africa were published.

The survey's objective was to determine how tolerant Africans were of LGBTQ+ individuals in their environments. According to the survey, the majority of people in Africa displayed extreme lack of tolerance for LGBTQ+ individuals. Uganda's tolerance rating was 5%, making it one of the continent's most intolerant countries towards LGBTQ+ persons. Therefore, the development of queerphobia and homophobia is prevalent among the citizens of country for which the policies of country's government play a crucial role. Thus, this rigorous act will impact Uganda at the world front socially, economically, and politically as well.

Violation Of Human Rights

The term LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, transgender, Queer. This community gain a broader adaptation in the mid-1980s. Since then, we can see the awareness programs, movements, and supporters of them till today at a huge scale. The International human rights law lays down the obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups. Since 2003, The UN have criticized the acts which deal with killings of people based on their sexual identity and orientation.

Various resolutions have also been passed by human rights council to support the same in the years 2011, 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2019. Furthermore, The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres made the statement in 2018 "So long as people face criminalization, bias and violence based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics, we must redouble our efforts to end this violations,". As of 2022, 34 countries have made same sex marriage legal.

The new act of Uganda violates the many provisions of International Human rights.

Firstly, The UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights adopted by UN in 1966, found that laws punishing adult consensual homosexual acts violate the Covenant's guarantees of non-discrimination and privacy and held that discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited under Articles 2 and 26 of the Covenant.

Secondly, the opening words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are unequivocal: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." Thus, this means that International human rights legislation guarantees that all persons are treated equally and without discrimination, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, or "other status." No provision in any of our human rights treaties, whether in the small print or a secret exemption clause, would permit a State to guarantee full rights to some while denying them to others solely based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Finally, the Article 6 and Article 7 of International Covenant on Civil and political Rights which abolishes death penalty and inhumane treatment. That read as -
Article 6- "No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life". The phrase that follows provide assurances that no one may be "arbitrarily" deprived of life and that the right to life must be guaranteed by the law.

Article 7- "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

A Conservation or A Contravention?

The Uganda's speaker addresses and gives a statement that "We have stood strong to defend our culture and the aspirations of our people" after the passing of the bill granting support of the majority of MPs in parliament with a same reason of rationality about the passing of bill . The Condemnation of homosexuality as "un-African" continues fervently on the African continent, especially in conservative Christian circles - even though Christianity is historically Western.

Although Africans have claimed that homosexuality is Western, they have used Western religion as the basis for their claim," Nigerian LGBTQ activist Bisi Alimi wrote in the British newspaper The Guardian in 2015, adding that many people justify their homosexual views by claiming that homosexuality it is not in the Bible. Africa's past is "a real mess," concludes Alimi . Uganda is also influenced by the era of colonialism and the religion is deeply rooted into the cultures of the country.

During the colonial rule the homosexuality was ban since the year 1902 but the country's constitution adopted in its penal code act ,1950 which was made in the era of colonialism. Thus, the country wants to conserve the culture at the time of western hegemony.

The New act passed by the Uganda's parliament clearly contravenes the principles of human rights. The International community mainly the European and American countries have expressed a grave concern over the new legislation. This will further intensify the violence against the LGBTQ+ community so as the stigma in the citizens of the country. Framing a stringent bill that violates the principles of human rights will impact the frontiers of the country globally. To balance the commitments of conservation of culture the Uganda government should take measures to abide by its constitution and international human rights to grant equality before law rather than to overstep the constitution by decriminalizing consensual same sex acts and granting of death penalty in aggravated homosexuality.

Further, the Uganda government must reconsider that the new act violates many provisions of International Human Rights. Furthermore, the motive behind the legislation can also have a negative impact and it will not be a fruitful outcome for the country at the global level who is still identify as a least developed country.

  • Samuel Okiror, Uganda's parliament passes mostly unchanged anti-LGBTQ bill, the Guardian (May 2, 2023) -
  • Uganda: UN experts condemn egregious anti-LGBT legislation, OHCHR
  • Uganda's anti-gay bill is the latest and worst to target LGBTQ Africans, Reuters
  • UN Free & Equal (last visited Oct. 25, 2023)
  • Resolutions on sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics, OHCHR
  • About LGBTI people and human rights, OHCHR
  • Marriage Equality Around the World, Human Rights Campaign (last visited Oct. 25, 2023)
  • Samuel Okiror, Ugandan president signs anti-LGBTQ+ law with death penalty for same-sex acts, the Guardian (May 29, 2023)
  • Kevin Tschierse & Ines Eisele, Why is homophobia so strong in Uganda?- DW- 04/21/2023, (Apr. 21, 2023)

Written By:
  1. Ali Johar, Law Student At Jamia Millia Islamia , New Delhi
  2. Asad Naushad Khan, Law Student At Jamia Millia Islamia , New Delhi

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