Parliament of Uganda Passes "Sexual Offences Bill" Enhancing Criminalization of Same-Sex Relations

On Monday, May 3, 2021, the Parliament of Uganda passed the Sexual Offences Bill 2019. Purportedly the Bill aims to prevent sexual violence, enhance punishment against sexual offenders and provide additional protection for victims. However, it also reinforces and reiterates a ban on same-sex relations codified in the country's Penal Code.

Same-sex relations have been criminalized in Uganda since British colonial times in sections 145 on "unnatural offenses" and 148 on "indecent practices"of the Penal Code, with a maximum sentence of life in prison foreseen. Clause 11 of the Sexual Offences Bill further confirms this existing criminalization.

Executive Director of OutRight Action International, Jessica Stern, comments:

"Same-sex relations are already criminalized in Uganda's Penal Code. The inclusion of same-sex relations in this Bill paints LGBTQ people as sexual offenders, and can only serve one purpose - to fuel already rampant LGBTQ-phobia, discrimination and violence. It is deplorable. The colonial legacy of criminalizing same-sex relations must end."

Sexual Minorities Uganda, a network of LGBTQ organizations in Uganda, stated:

"The Bill will enhance the already homophobic environment in Uganda and lead the way for further violation of the rights of sexual and gender minorities, including violations such as "corrective rape" and other acts of violence. Clause 11 also goes against the very essence of the Bill to protect Ugandans from sexual violence."

The bill will now be presented before the president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, for his assent into law. President Museveni has publicly expressed anti-LGBTQ views, most recently in the run up to the general election in January 2021, blaming pre-election violence on foreign LGBTQ groups.

The Sexual Offences Bill is not the first effort to enhance criminalization of same-sex relations in Uganda. The so-called "Anti-Homosexuality Act," which foresaw imposition of the death penalty for same-sex relations, was passed by the parliament in 2013 and signed into law by President Museveni in early 2014. It was invalidated by the Constitutional Court of Uganda on procedural grounds the same year.

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