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December 7, 2009

Antigay Ugandan Law Ignites Controversy Among LGBT and HIV Advocates

Human rights groups around the globe are condemning a bill before Uganda’s parliament to further criminalize homosexuality in the country, The Guardian reports. Under the bill, the minimum punishment for anyone convicted of performing homosexual acts is life in prison; if the accused person is HIV positive, a serial offender, “a person of authority” over the other partner or if the partner is younger than 18, the penalty is death.

According to the article, all citizens would need to report any known homosexual to the police within 24 hours. Failure to do so could result in three years in jail.

“The bill is haunting us,” said Frank Mugisha, chairman of Sexual Minorities Uganda, an LGBT coalition. “If this passes we will have to leave the country.”

The proposed legislation would reinforce colonial-era laws that already criminalize homosexuality. The bill has received widespread public support because of rampant homophobia in Uganda, bolstered by a U.S.-linked evangelical campaign alleging that homosexuality can be cured and accusing gay men of trying to “recruit” schoolchildren.

Last month, in an apparent show of support for the bill, President Yoweri Museveni warned youths in Kampala that “European homosexuals are recruiting in Africa,” and he said same-sex relationships were condemned by God.

“We used to say Mr. and Mrs., but now it is Mr. and Mr. What is that now?” he asked.

Ahead of a Commonwealth heads of government meeting that ended November 29 in the Caribbean republic Trinidad and Tobago, Stephen Lewis, a former U.N. envoy on AIDS in Africa, said the law “makes a mockery of Commonwealth principles” and has “a taste of fascism” about it.

Search: Uganda, LGBT, antigay, homosexuality, criminalization, same-sex

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