Protestors in Uganda attempt to overturn homophobic law

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An attempt to overturn a new Ugandan law that sanctions the jailing for life of LGBT+ people is expected to be ruled on today.

Protestors in the African country claim that legal procedures were not properly followed before the legislation was signed by President Yoweri Museveni in February. As well as jailing gay people for life, the legislation bans any form of promotion of homosexuality and requires Ugandans to denounce gay people to the authorities. Ugandans who fail to report LGBT people to the police also face the possibility of a jail sentence themselves.

LGBT activists claim when the law was approved there were not enough legislators present to make up a quorum – the number needed to pass the law – and it should not therefore stand. But the activists also argue that the new law goes against individuals rights to be free from discrimination, to have privacy and dignity, and not to be subject to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. These rights are enshrined in Uganda’s constitution.

LGBT activist Frank Mugishsa yesterday told a reporter from Agence France-Presse he was hopeful that the judges examining the case would overturn the new law:’I think that we could have a very good judgement tomorrow, and if we get that judgement then it’s over, and we just have to celebrate.’

However Pastor Martin Ssempa, an anti-gay preacher and lawmaker, claimed that if the new legislation was overturned it would be a “judicial abortion”. He said the only reason the move was being considered was due to pressure from the international community.
Since the law was signed in by the president, Western nations have made a range of aid cuts to Uganda to demonstrate their disapproval. US President Barack Obama described the new law as “odious” while US Secretary of State John Kerry compared it to anti-Semitic legislation in Nazi Germany.  However, even if the law is overturned today, previous legislation would still mean that homosexuality would be illegal in the country, although with lesser penalties.

Human rights organisations estimate that there are around 500,000 LGBT people in Uganda, which has a population of 31 million. Homophobia and anti-gay violence has increased in the country in recent years, partly fuelled by a rise in American-style evangelical Christianity. The torture and even unofficial “execution” of LGBT people is not uncommon in Uganda and is generally overlooked by the police. Five years ago, three prominent US anti-LGBT evangelists held a well-attended conference in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, to ostensibly deal with the “gay agenda” in the country, which they claimed was partly being spurred on by foreigners. According to the New York Times, workshops at the conference focused on “how to make gay people straight” and “how gay men often sodomized teenage boys.” Leaders also described the LGBT rights movement as an “evil institution” whose goal was “to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity”.

Homosexuality is against the law in 38 of Africa’s 53 nations.

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