Uganda just passed one of the 'most extreme' anti-gay bills in the world

Video and words by Sam Leader, ITV News' Here's The Story

Imagine being unable to rent a house just because of your sexual identity.

Now imagine that by identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender that you could be breaking a wide range of laws.

That's the reality that is currently facing LGBTQ+ people in Uganda after parliament voted in favour of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023, and its consequences are already being felt.

One activist I spoke to who uses they/them pronouns showed me the shocking homophobic messages they had received since the bill began it's journey through parliament.

Image: Pride celebrations took place in Uganda back in 2014 Credit: AP

Describing the fear they live in they said: "It's like a genocide [...] I fear for my life, and I know that I may be attacked or killed".

"We are going to see what we call hatred, discrimination, killings, blood on the street."

They added that they had not even been able to leave their home to buy food for fear of a hate crime being committed against them - and feared they may die in their room.

Direct messages they received said "homosexuals should be killed", adding they should have their eyes pulled out and their necks broken.

Image: The 2014 Pride event took place after a Ugandan court invalidated a previous anti-gay law Credit: AP

They received another email that likened gay people to "maggots" with whom they don't want to share a country.

Another activist said he is being evicted by his landlord on the basis of his sexual orientation, and that was before the bill was even voted on in parliament.

Since the vote, he told me society has completely turned against his community because people are "now willing to do anything to the LGBTQ+ people".

Ugandans' who identify as LGBT+ describe their concerns and experiences

"Many members of the LGBTQ+ community in Uganda will continue facing different challenges of mob justice, family rejection, police raids, evictions by their landlords, and also there will be reverse gains in the fight over HIV / AIDS.

"It is so unprecedented that identity itself would be criminalised" said Graeme Reid, Director of the LGBT Rights programme at Human Rights Watch.

"This is the most extreme bill that we've seen so far. It is absolutely preposterous to send somebody to jail for merely acknowledging same sex desire."

What changes in Uganda if the Anti-Homosexuality 2023 bill is signed?

Member of parliament Asuman Basalirwa introduced the 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Bill earlier this month.

Image: Member of parliament Asuman Basalirwa speaking during the reading of the Anti-Homosexuality bill Credit: Parliament of Uganda

If the law is signed it will crack down on every aspect of life in Uganda - from relationships to living standards.

The bill creates the offence of “attempted homosexuality”, punishable with up to 10 years in jail.

Same-sex activity is already punishable with life imprisonment, though up to this point rarely applied. Under the new bill these sentences will be enforced.

Friends, family and support groups would be unable to support LGBTQ+ people in Uganda as they would also be falling foul of the new law by not reporting same-sex relationships.

It also becomes illegal for landlords to knowingly rent out their properties to an LGBTQ+ person.

Image: Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has the final decision when it comes to signing the bill into law Credit: AP

The death penalty is also introduced under the bill for "aggravated homosexuality" which includes sex with someone of the same sex under the age of 18, or with someone being HIV positive.

On Tuesday MPs voted in favour of passing the bill, which means it just needs signing by Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni, who has previously made disapproving comments of LGBTQ+ people.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk urged the president not to sign the 'shocking' bill in a statement on Wednesday.

“Not only does it conflict with Uganda’s own constitutional provisions stipulating equality and non-discrimination for all – it also runs counter to the country’s international legal obligations on human rights and political commitments on sustainable development, and actively puts people­’s rights, health and safety at grave risk.”

Graeme Reid Director of the LGBT Rights programme at Human Rights Watch says the response from the international community has been 'muted'

A similar Anti-Homosexuality Bill was passed back in 2014 in Uganda that also included damning consequences for LGBTQ+ people, but was made redundant six months later as it went against Uganda's constitution.

But the damage had already been done as the aftermath caused homophobic abuse and assault which began spiralling out of control.

History is repeating itself, and it's queer people who are suffering.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know