Prof. Sylvia Tamale, a highly regarded Law Professor at Makerere University, has strongly criticized the recently signed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2023, labelling it as a “Draconian” piece of legislation.
Expressing her concerns, Prof. Tamale denounced the law as harsh and repressive, cautioning that it could be misused by the ruling government to target political opponents through fabricated accusations.
The professor drew parallels between the Anti-Homosexuality law and the Public Order Management Act of 2013, which aimed to regulate freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstrations. She highlighted how the former Prime Minister, John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, who initially supported the Public Order Management Act, later faced its repercussions when he contested the presidency in 2016 and fell out with the government.
Prof. Tamale further argued that the Anti-Homosexuality law could pave the way for a form of “sexual apartheid” in the country, contradicting African values, morals, and personal beliefs.
Rahom Maria Bukirwa, the Programme Manager at Women’s Pro Bono Initiative Uganda, also voiced her objections to the law, describing it as ambiguous and targeting sexual minorities.
However, Bosco Okiror, the Usuk County Member of Parliament, downplayed the human rights concerns raised by opponents of the law, asserting that recognizing homosexuality poses a threat to the moral values of African families.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was passed by Parliament on March 22 and forwarded to President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni for assent. The President later returned the bill unsigned, suggesting that it should not criminalize one’s sexual orientation but focus on those who engage in and promote homosexuality.
He also proposed the provision of rehabilitation for individuals previously involved in homosexual acts, although he noted that this proposal was not mandatory and could be addressed at a later time.
In response to the law, Prof. Tamale, along with Dr. Busingye Kabumba, Fox Odoi Oywelowo (a human rights lawyer), veteran journalist Andrew Mwenda, and eight others, have filed a petition with the Constitutional Court to challenge the Attorney General regarding the Anti-Gay law.
The petitioners argue that the conduct of Speaker Anita Among during the debate and passing of the bill exhibited bias, contravening certain articles of the Constitution of Uganda. They assert that the law institutionalizes a culture of hatred and creates a social class of marginalized individuals, violating multiple articles of the Constitution.
Following the signing of the bill into law, Asuman Basalirwa, the Bugiri Municipality Representative who introduced the legislation, issued a warning that the country should expect aid cuts and travel bans from Western countries.
Speaker of Parliament Anita Among has already had her US visa revoked, and potential repercussions on Uganda’s relationship with major trading partners and supporters in curbing HIV/AIDS, such as the U.S., UNAids, and The Global Fund, are anticipated.