Desperate Pleas for Help: LGBTQ Community in Uganda Under Siege as Anti-Gay Law Threatens Their Safety
Alex, a gay man in Uganda, stated, “They are going to arrest us because I cannot pretend to be what I am not.” As reported by Jacaranda FM, he made this statement after Ugandan MPs passed what critics call one of the harshest anti-gay legislations worldwide, known as the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023. The bill is now ready to be delivered to President Yoweri Museveni, who receives calls from the United States and United Nations to reject it. MPs passed the bill in a disorganised parliamentary session with numerous amendments, and neither lawmakers nor analysts know what the legislation dictates. However, according to activists, anyone engaging in same-sex activity could face life imprisonment if Museveni consented.
Campaigners have noted that Uganda has effectively ended capital punishment, with death sentences commuted to prison terms. However, for many LGBTQ Ugandans, this is cold comfort. They are struggling with difficult decisions as they think about fleeing the only country they have known. Online messaging groups provide comfort and solidarity but are an ever-present reminder of the threats that queer Ugandans face. From neighbouring Kenya to far-off South Africa and further abroad to North America and Europe, LGBTQ Ugandans have already gone trade advice and tips on finding safe spaces and navigating immigration bureaucracy.
Also read: Shocking! Ugandan MPs Pass Bill Allowing Death Penalty for Same-Sex Relationships!
Uganda had previously signed an anti-gay bill into law in 2014. It fueled fear and triggered blocks to international aid from Western countries before a court removed the legislation based on technicality. Today, 78-year-old Museveni, ruling Uganda since 1986, must weigh the bill’s public status against the possibility of international censure. Religious and political leaders have shared groundless conspiracy theories about gay people going after children at the behest of shadowy international forces.
Many of Uganda’s neighbours are also violating gay rights, with politicians in Tanzania and Kenya warning against raising awareness of LGBTQ issues. Travelling to the West isn’t simple, even for those with the money to fund the trip. The legislation also puts the family and friends of LGBTQ Ugandans at risk, forcing residents who suspect a person “intends to commit the offence of homosexuality” to go to the police or face six months imprisonment.
During an interview with AFP, Alex teared up as he contemplated his mother’s dilemma. “She knows I’m gay. She’s supportive and worries about me, but if this becomes law, I just know she’s going to give me (up).” Like many LGBTQ Ugandans, the young man tries to depart from the country but has few options.
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