Criminalising gays


The signing on Monday by Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni of draconian anti-gay legislation has pitched the once widely admired president firmly against human rights groups, aid NGOs and donor governments. Norway and Denmark have already decided to cut aid in protest. Others will follow, and there was widespread international condemnation of the move. (Ireland’s aid programme has already been suspended over financial irregularities).

Earlier provisions for the death penalty had been removed from the final draft of the law, under strong international pressure, but the Act provides for sentences from seven years to life for “committing the act of homosexuality”, promoting or abetting homosexuality, or “purport[ing] to contract a marriage with another person of the same sex”.

The move comes just weeks after Museveni’s Nigerian counterpart, Goodluck Jonathan, took similar steps, threatening offenders with 14-year prison terms, and Uganda is one of the 37 African states which proscribe gay rights. Campaigners warn that the enactment of the legislation will also contribute to legitimising and deepening the climate of fear, targeted intimidation and street violence which many gay men and women face. Ominously, one local tabloid yesterday celebrated the law’s enactment by publishing lists of dozens of people it says are gay and lesbian under the banner headline “EXPOSED”.

Museveni, east Africa’s senior leader, has been under domestic political pressure and has clearly calculated that the Act’s undoubted popularity with voters heavily influenced by evangelical religious conservatives, and a dash of Mugabe-like anticolonial populist rhetoric against the donor countries will stand him in good stead. And, like regional neighbours Rwanda and Kenya who have also fallen out with donors, Uganda is looking increasingly to investment from countries like no-questions-asked China and Malaysia. Gay rights, it seems, are expendable.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Screen Name Selection


Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.