In Uganda, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 was introduced in Parliament last October. The bill targets lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Ugandans, their advocates, and those that know someone LGBT. It would reaffirm existing penalties for homosexuality and introduce sweeping new criminal provisions. Some of these troubling provisions include: imprisonment for life for anyone convicted of the “offence of homosexuality;” punishment for the “promotion of homosexuality” with prison terms; imprisonment for up to three years for anyone who fails to report to the authorities LGBT people or LGBT human rights defenders they know; and most egregiously, the application of the death penalty to anyone in Uganda who has consensual same-sex relations repeatedly or who has consensual same-sex relations and is HIV positive. If this bill were to pass, it would be a devastating blow to the human rights of all Ugandans and would significantly impede effective HIV prevention and care.
This week in the U.S., a bipartisan group of members of Congress proposed resolutions condemning the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The House resolution, H.R. 1064, sponsored by Howard Berman (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), received thirty-nine cosponsors. The Senate resolution, S.R. 409, sponsored by Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Tom Coburn (R-OK), currently has four co-sponsors. The House resolution extends beyond Uganda to call on all nations to reject laws that criminalize homosexuality.
Public pressure is needed to ensure that both resolutions come up for a vote. Condemnation by the U.S. government is one of many factors that could persuade Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to prevent the bill from becoming law. If the resolutions pass, the U.S. Congress will join President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in sending the government of Uganda a unified message that passing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill will have serious consequences to its relationships internationally.