Uganda Passes Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation

Derek Lewis

Summary: Uganda’s murderous new anti-LGBTQ+ law is not only about Africa, given its connections to the agenda of the U.S. religious right – Editors

The president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, has signed into law a bill that criminalizes homosexuality to the extent of life in prison or even the death penalty in some cases. Currently, homosexuality is criminalized in more than 30 of 54 countries on the African continent. Other members of the Ugandan government, such as the Parliamentary Speaker Anita Among, strongly supported the law, which passed overwhelmingly.


It is a slightly amended version of the same law passed in March; however, this version stipulates simply identifying as homosexual is not a crime. What is criminal, according to the bill, is “attempted aggravated homosexuality” and “aggravated homosexuality.” This refers to same-sex relations between two people, one of whom is HIV positive or a child/other vulnerable person. Committing this crime results in execution while attempting to engage in these activities results in up to 14 years in prison. The law increases the punitive measures which can be imposed upon those who engage in gay sex; they can now receive life in prison. Further, attempting to even have a same-sex relation with another can mean up to 10 years in prison.


In the past, Uganda’s parliament passed similar bills which were struck down in the courts following domestic and international outrage. Today, organizations such as Amnesty International and the UN’s Human Rights office condemned the decisions; additionally, the Biden Administration has denounced the law as “shameful” and directed the National Security Council to adjust certain U.S. international programs, such as PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). The word sanctions has also been mentioned regarding human rights abuses.


LGBTQ+ individuals in the country who have not already fled due to concerns over their safety are resisting. Those on the ground filed a petition against the decision nearly immediately with the support of Amnesty International. Protestors in other African states, such as South Africa, have been seen carrying signs saying, “Being gay is not the crime, homophobia is the true crime.”


Unfortunately for the LGBTQ+ individuals of Uganda, they reside within an incredibly religiously conservative society. The bill just passed by their parliament is perhaps the most restrictive in the world, certainly among the most. However, this did not happen overnight, and while Uganda may be a more conservative nation their homophobia does not exist in isolation.


In 2009, an anti-LGBTQ+ activist from the U.S. named Scott Lively gave a speech at the Triangle Hotel in Kampala at an anti-LGBTQ+ conference. Within a month, the Ugandan Parliament drafted a bill that included clauses from Lively’s speech in its preamble. He had spoken in Uganda previously, spouting the nonsense from far-right conspiracy-theorists that has become commonplace in U.S. politics. Unlike more recent fanatics, Lively has been active in such causes since the 90s. His approach is incremental, and his motivation is – at least in his own eyes – righteous.


Lively sees the Gay Rights Movement as a mechanism to undermine the institution of marriage and promote sexual promiscuity. Lively believes AIDS is a “gay disease” and should be recharacterized as such. Lively has said that homosexuality is morally equivalent to pedophilia and has argued that molestation leads to becoming gay, and that adult gay men seek to “convert” children. Lively is a disgusting reactionary homophobe who is starting to sound like a Nazi; however, he would respond to that insult by saying Hitler’s high command were actually all homosexuals, and they were the ones in the SS who first persecuted Jews.


This crackpot was sued by the Ugandan LGBTQ+ group Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) which likely would have won the case, had it not been thrown out on jurisdictional grounds. The group sued Lively in Springfield, Massachusetts, USA, where he resides. Judge Michael Ponsor presided, and though he threw the case out he stated: “Anyone reading this memorandum should make no mistake. The question before the court is not whether Defendant’s actions in aiding and abetting efforts to demonize, intimidate, and injure LGBTI people in Uganda constitute violations of international law. They do.”


This was all said and done a decade ago. Yet today we find ourselves going backward. As of March, SMUG was no longer officially sanctioned as an NGO by the Ugandan state. The group had been accused of recruiting for gay porn on Twitter, sparking widespread hysteria and panic against the group which may have contributed to its registration being rejected by the government.


Ideas of being lured in and recruited to homosexuality are not specific to Uganda or to Africa. Such claims exist in the United States too. Even in deep blue states like California, pockets of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment are pervasive – though not nearly to the extent of what is happening in Uganda. However, Americans who harbor anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs support organizations such as Exodus International (no longer operating) or the Family Life Network. Such groups fight against the imagined homosexual agenda by platforming “ex-gay” individuals who can share their stories, hosting/attending anti-LGBTQ+ conferences, or dispersing their literature via pamphlets.


There is a religious element at play as well. Evangelical groups in the U.S. are behind many anti-LGBTQ+ crusades at home, and those abroad can also be linked to the usual suspects. These groups have found more success outside the U.S., largely in Africa, but also in areas of Eastern Europe, like Poland; further, this can be seen as part of a long-term, well-coordinated cumulative effort. As mentioned above, these warriors on the frontlines against the supposedly all-powerful homosexual agenda believe they have god on their side – and they’re not stopping anytime soon.


This anti-LGBTQ+ hysteria on the African continent, seen most immediately in Uganda, is fueled by U.S.-based groups. Perhaps they believe they can create a bastion for heterosexuals on the African continent. Perhaps, more nefariously, they’re gaining insights from the passage of these laws in Africa to learn more about how to enact such measures in the U.S.






Works Cited:

2013 SMUG/Lively Case:


SPLC on Scott Lively:


Politico on Ugandan Law:


NPR on Ugandan Law:


Evangelicals and Homophobia in Africa:


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