By: Ekwi Ajide

The International AIDS Society (IAS), has expressed worries following the announcement of plans to introduce legislation that will impose the death penalty on people found to have had sex with a member of their own sex or to have “promoted” homosexuality in Uganda.

IAS says the plan is a serious threat to human rights and the HIV response in the country. The Ugandan Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo, announced the plans last month, arguing that “homosexuality is not natural to Ugandans” and as such, stiffer penalties are needed to prevent the “recruitment” of young people into homosexuality. He asserted that the legislation has the support of President Yoweri Museveni.

The bill is an expansion of a previous one that was passed five years ago and subsequently invalidated on a technicality. The latest bill would extend penalties to “promotion” of homosexuality, broadening the scope to target human rights and health advocates for the LGBT Community.
The proposed legislation, according to IAS in a statement co-signed by its Governing Council Africa Regional Representatives Serge Paul Eholié and Keletso Makofane, is inimical to Uganda’s National HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan which aims to achieve “zero discrimination” and “institute and strengthen anti-stigma and discrimination programmes”, with particular attention to the needs of key populations, such as men who have sex with men.

The duo highlighted that from past experiences stigma and discrimination are often devastating for the most marginalized people citing Brian Wasswa of the Ugandan LGBT community, who was brutally attacked and murdered around the time of the announcement of the legislation, Wasswa, is one of four community members who had been attacked in the past three months.

According to the statement, top African scientists have definitively debunked that homosexuality is unnatural in Uganda and that people can be recruited to become LGBT. According to a 2015 report published by the Academy of Science of South Africa, as well as the Uganda National

Academy of Sciences, “there is substantial biological evidence for the diversity of human sexualities and for sexual orientations in particular”.

The duo urged Uganda to ground its laws and policies in science rather than prejudice as criminalizing LGBT people and other key populations is utterly incompatible with the mandates of an effective HIV response. In 2018, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs,

sex workers and transgender people, together with their partners, accounted for a majority of new HIV infections, underscoring the need for governments to work with, not against, these communities who are most vulnerable to HIV.

They are however encouraged that the office of the President has denied plans to re-submit the bill and asked the government to openly condemn all forms of violence and discrimination against LGBT people, conduct a thorough and expedited investigation into the recent killings, and aggressively prosecute all persons involved in inciting violence towards LGBT people just as they urged the government of Uganda to join Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique and South Africa in unshackling the African continent from discrimination by decriminalizing same-sex activity.

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