By Morgan Phillips
Published October 10, 2019
Uganda's government said Thursday it would revive a bill that would impose the death penalty on homosexuals it claims are "involved in promotion and recruitment" in the East African nation.
“Homosexuality is not natural to Ugandans, but there has been a massive recruitment by gay people in schools, and especially among the youth, where they are promoting the falsehood that people are born like that,” Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo told Reuters. "Our current penal law is limited. It only criminalizes the act. We want it made clear that anyone who is even involved in promotion and recruitment has to be criminalized. Those that do grave acts will be given the death sentence."
The bill, popularly known as the "Kill the Gays” measure in Uganda, was struck down five years ago on a technicality but the government plans to resurrect it within weeks.
Homosexuality is highly restricted across Africa, with punishments ranging from imprisonment to death. As of 2016, same-sex sexual acts were outlawed in 33 of the 54 African countries recognized by the United Nations. Homosexuality is punishable by death in Sudan, Somalia, Mauritania and northern Nigeria.
Earlier this year, the sultan of Brunei announced plans to make gay sex punishable by death through stoning or whipping, before walking back the plans after the news sparked an international outcry. Many U.S. celebrities, including Elton John and George Clooney, announced they would boycott hotels owned by Dorchester Collection Group, which a Brunei-owned investment agency runs. Several international banks, including J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs, said they were banning their employees from staying at Dorchester-run hotels, such as the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles and its London flagship The Dorchester, as a protest.
Lokodo said the bill, which has the support of President Yoweri Museveni, will be brought before parliament in the coming weeks and he expects it to be voted on before the end of the year. He was confident it would achieve the necessary two-thirds majority support, as the government has lobbied legislators ahead of its re-introduction.
Uganda faced worldwide condemnation after the original “Kill the Gays” bill was signed into law in 2014. The U.S. reduced aid, imposed visa restrictions and canceled joint military exercises. The World Bank, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands also suspended or redirected aid.
Lokodo said he was aware of the potential blowback.
"It is a concern," he said. "But we are ready. We don't like blackmailing. Much as we know that this is going to irritate our supporters in budget and governance, we can't just bend our heads and bow before people who want to impose a culture which is foreign to us."