Uganda’s LGBTQ community declared anti-gay bill threatens homelessness

FILE – A Ugandan man wearing a decal that reads “Some Ugandans are gay, get over it” (AP Photo/Rebecca Vassie, File)

A prominent leader of Uganda’s LGBTQ community said on Thursday he was worried about being “homeless”, describing anguished calls from others like him concerned for their safety following the passage of a tough new anti-gay law.

“I’m worried about being evicted,” said Frank Mugisha, director of the banned LGBTQ support group Sexual Minorities Uganda. “I am worried that I will be evicted from the place where I live, because I do not have property. I could be homeless”.

The legislation “would make it impossible for me to live in this country and work here,” he said.

Mugisha spoke to the news agency PA amid increasing pressure from the United Nations, the United States and others who urge President Yoweri Museveni to block legislation passed by lawmakers on Tuesday.

Uganda LGBTQ leader says gay bill threatens homelessness
Ugandan MP John Musila wears clothing with an anti-LGBTQ message (AP Photo/Ronald Kabuubi)

The bill prescribes the death penalty for the crime of “aggravated homosexuality” and life imprisonment for “homosexuality”. Aggravated homosexuality is defined as cases of sexual relations involving HIV-infected persons, as well as minors and other categories of vulnerable persons. They proposed jail terms of up to 20 years for those who defend or promote the rights of LGBTQ people.

A suspect convicted of “aggravated attempted homosexuality” can be jailed for 14 years and the crime of “attempted homosexuality” is punishable by up to 10 years, according to the bill.

It is unclear when Museveni will notify the legislature of his intentions regarding the bill. He sometimes takes his time before signing bills. He has condemned homosexuality over the years and recently accused unnamed Western nations of “trying to force their practices on other people.”

The bill was introduced last month by an opposition lawmaker who said its aim was to punish the “promotion, recruitment and funding” of LGBTQ activities in this East African country where homosexuals are widely looked down upon. Only two of the 389 lawmakers present during the voting session opposed the bill, including one who was mocked by his colleagues during the plenary debate as “gay” after submitting a dissenting opinion.

Uganda LGBTQ leader says gay bill threatens homelessness
The Parliament of Uganda (AP Photo/Ronald Kabuubi)

International concern is increasing regarding the legislation.

washington has “serious concerns” about the bill, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Wednesday, adding that it would hamper tourism and economic investment in Uganda.

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that if the law were enacted, Washington “would have to take a look” at imposing economic sanctions on Uganda. He noted that this would be “really unfortunate” since most US aid is in the form of healthcare, especially AIDS-related assistance.

The UN AIDS agency also warns that the legislation “threatens public health” because it would undermine efforts to combat HIV.

Uganda LGBTQ leader says gay bill threatens homelessness
FILE – Kenyan gays and lesbians wear masks to preserve their anonymity in a rare protest against Uganda’s tough stance (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

Anti-gay sentiment in Uganda has grown in recent weeks amid media reports alleging sodomy at boarding schools, including a prestigious one for boys in which a father accused a teacher of abusing his son. The recent decision by the Church of England to bless civil marriages for same-sex couples has also outraged many, including some who see homosexuality as imported from abroad.

Cases of alleged child sexual abuse have put further pressure on the LGBTQ community, said Mugisha, the openly gay leader whose organization was shut down by authorities last year.

“Ugandans have been radicalized,” he said. “Even those who were sympathetic are no longer sympathetic because they care about the children.”

He said he was receiving calls from members of his community who were concerned about where to go for medical services and even where to rent.

Uganda LGBTQ leader says gay bill threatens homelessness
FILE – Gay Ugandan refugees who fled their country to neighboring Kenya (AP Photo/Brian Inganga, File)

“Many people are worried about being found out”, said. “The question is: ‘What is going to happen to them?’”

Homosexuality is criminalized in more than 30 of the 54 countries in Africa.

In Uganda, a deeply conservative Christian country, same-sex relations are already criminalized under a colonial-era law that prohibits sexual acts “against the order of nature.”

But civil authorities have called for years for a more radical gay-targeted bill after one enacted in 2014 was struck down on procedural grounds by a panel of judges amid intense international pressure.

(With information from AP)

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