Uganda Parliament passes stricter anti-gay law

Uganda Parliament

Members of Parliament are seen during plenary on March 21, 2023 as the House debated the controversial anti-gay Bill.

Photo credit: Handout

What you need to know:

  • At least 389 Members of Parliament (MPs) attended in-person while about four-dozen others followed proceedings via Zoom technology as the House adopted the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2023.
  • That number is above the quorum of 176 MPs required to vote on the Bill.  
  • Shortly after the start of Tuesday's 6-hour long plenary, ruling NRM party MP Fox Odoi led charges against passing the legislation.

Amidst minor in-House opposition, Parliament on Tuesday swiftly passed a legislation with stricter penalties for people engaged in same-sex activities in Uganda.

"This House will not shy away from protecting the rights, sovereignty, morals and culture of this country,” Speaker Anita Among said after Parliament unanimously adopted the Bill.

Penalties under the new legislation include a 10-year-jail term for anyone who engages in same-sex relationships or identifies as LGBTQ. Offenders also face harsher punishments. 

Activists have recently amplified voices blasting the Bill as “a human rights violation.”

"We recognise that the constitution contains non-derogable rights and in this process, the House has striven to recognise those rights...but the norms and aspirations of the people of Uganda will always remain supreme," Among emphasised.  

The fresh anti-gay law, which previously met a court nullification after it was lawed by President Museveni in 2014, returned to a nearly full 11th Parliament on March 21 as 389 lawmakers were present in-person, with about 55 MPs following proceedings on Zoom technology. 

Unconstitutional provisions

In what analysts termed as double-edged remarks, President Museveni March 16 branded gay people as “deviants” but noted that Tuesday’s amendments to the anti-gay law would be subjected to scientific findings.

“Is it by nature or by nurture? We need to answer those questions. We need a medical opinion on that,” he told Parliament in a unique address.

“We took note of his speech in tongues sounding without conclusion,” Leader of Opposition (LOP) Mathias Mpuuga said on Tuesday as he urged government to respect Parliament's adoption. 

Shortly after the start of Tuesday's 6-hour long plenary, ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party MP Fox Odoi had led charges against passing the legislation.

“It contains provisions that are unconstitutional, reverses the gains registered in the fight against gender-based violence and criminalizes individuals instead of conduct that contravenes legal provisions,” he said during plenary.

The Bill will now await President Museveni’s consent.