Ugandan lawmakers introduced legislation in parliament on Thursday that proposes harsh new penalties for same-sex relationships in a country where homosexuality is already illegal, defying human rights groups’ criticism.
The bill was referred to a house committee for review by Anita Among, the speaker of parliament, as the first step in an expedited process to pass the proposal into law.
In a speech to parliament laced with homophobic language, she promised “a public hearing” in which sexual minorities would be allowed to participate.
“Allow the public to come to express their views, including the homos,” she said.
Theories of conspiracies. The bill is being introduced at a time when conspiracy theories accusing shadowy international forces of promoting homosexuality are gaining traction on Uganda’s conservative social media.
Anyone who engages in a same-sex activity or “holds out” as LGBTQ could face up to ten years in prison under the proposed law. When the time comes, legislators will vote on the bill one by one in front of their peers, according to some.
“This is the time you’ll show us whether you’re a homo or not,” she said.
Uganda is well-known for its intolerance of homosexuality, which is illegal under colonial-era laws and for its strict Christian views on sexuality in general.
However, there has never been a conviction for consensual same-sex activity since the country’s independence from Britain in 1962.
According to rights groups, the law would result in more persecution of a vulnerable minority group.
Ugandan lawmakers passed a bill in 2014 that called for life in prison for anyone caught having gay sex, but the law was later overturned by a court.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the new legislation is “a revised and more egregious version” of the 2014 bill.
“Ugandan politicians should focus on passing laws that protect vulnerable minorities and affirm fundamental rights, rather than targeting LGBT people for political capital,” said HRW Uganda researcher Oryem Nyeko.