LGBT rights seem to have a place in the politics of almost every nation in the world these days. The topic is one of the most polarizing as well. Some countries are spearheading the movement with full inclusiveness for LGBT citizens. Others, like the United States, seem to be floating somewhere in the middle. And then there are the countries pushing hard in the opposite direction, such as Russia.
However, when it comes to anti-gay legislation, the government of Uganda is in a league of its own. In February of this year, lawmakers in Uganda essentially made it illegal to be gay by passing the Anti-Homosexuality Act. The bill makes the promotion of homosexuality, in every general sense, punishable. The price to pay for the ultimate offense – actually being gay – is a life sentence.
The legislation also extends for interacting with LGBT people. Failure to report homosexual suspicion to the government will earn time behind bars. Even knowingly housing or renting an apartment to a gay person could warrant up to five years in prison.
In recent history, societies across the world have met very significant ethical milestones that make Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act seem absurd. Doesn’t the Ugandan government, or any government for that matter, have more pressing issues than bedroom behavior that need attention? Would the Ugandan government actually spend the time and energy to enforce the law?
The Refugee Law Project, a Uganda-based nongovernmental organization, recently came under investigation by the government over allegations of “promoting homosexuality and lesbianism.” Whether or not the NGO actually violated the Anti-Homosexuality Act is still being disputed as the investigation takes place.
The RLP operates at the School of Law of Makerere University in Uganda. Its aim is to enhance the mental health and psychosocial well-being of refugees and displaced people. The organization also explicitly states its intention to enforce sexuality and gender rights for those in need, which may have been a cause for government scrutiny.
The Refugee Law Project has taken to social media to inform the public that its operations are still running despite some interference. The organization has halted its one-on-one work with refugees at the moment, however. Some say that this inherently threatens the Refugee Law Project’s ability to accomplish its mission.
The standing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda is debated on ethical grounds for human rights, but it has also been criticized as a scapegoat tool to target groups and individuals critical of President Yoweri Museveni’s regime. Regardless, the legislation takes significant time and energy to enact and reinforce – time and energy that could be better spent helping groups in need rather than ostracizing people further.
— Edward Heinrich