A Draconian New Anti-LGBTQ Bill in Uganda Could Impose Death Penalty

Full interview with Ugandan LGBTQ activist Frank Mugisha a couple of draconian new anti-gay invoice the nation is on the verge of imposing, which makes it a criminal offense to establish as queer, considers all same-sex conduct to be nonconsensual, and even permits for the loss of life penalty in sure instances.


This can be a rush transcript. Copy will not be in its remaining type.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Struggle and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

We glance now at how LGBTQ and human rights activists are elevating alarm a couple of sweeping new measure in Uganda that additional criminalizes LGBTQ individuals and permits for the loss of life sentence in sure instances. It seems to be the primary try and outlaw even figuring out as LGBTQ. It additionally targets HIV-positive individuals who interact in same-sex relations, bans the so-called promotion of homosexuality, and declares all same-sex conduct as nonconsensual. Uganda’s Parliament has handed the measure. It now awaits the signature of the president.

This comes as a latest editorial by The Washington Put up notes Uganda is hardly alone in its anti-LGBT posture. Of the 64 or so international locations that also criminalize same-sex relationships, at the very least half, at the very least 32, by most counts, are in Africa.

For extra, we’re joined by Frank Mugisha, a number one Ugandan LGBTQ and human rights activist, who’s right here in Washington, D.C., this week.

Frank, welcome to Democracy Now! Discuss concerning the laws that’s being handed.

FRANK MUGISHA: Thanks a lot for having me.

The laws that has been handed by our Parliament, that’s pending the signature of the president, is without doubt one of the most excessive legislations, anti-gay legislations, to be handed in Africa. This laws would compel any one that is aware of an LGBTQ individual to report them to the authorities. A Catholic like myself, if I confess to my priest, my priest has to report me to the authorities. Any one that goes to hunt therapy from a well being practitioner, they must report them to the authority. This legislation, additional, would criminalize any landlord who gives housing to an LGBTQ individual. This legislation would outlaw the work I’m doing on talking out for LGBTQ individuals, but in addition it will criminalize something I put up on my social media that advocates or promotes the human rights of LGBTQ individuals. This interview that I’m having now, if I had it in Uganda, the studio, the entity, myself could be criminalized. This laws is right here to erase all the livelihood of the LGBTQ individual in Uganda.

AMY GOODMAN: The place does the loss of life penalty match into this, Frank Mugisha?

FRANK MUGISHA: The loss of life penalty — to begin with, it’s necessary to notice that the preliminary textual content of the invoice didn’t have the loss of life penalty. To indicate you the way excessive the members of the Ugandan Parliament are, the loss of life penalty was launched in the course of the debate.

The loss of life penalty would criminalize any one that engages in sexual acts with a minor, or if somebody is an authority. However allow us to not confuse the loss of life penalty for less than punishing individuals — pedophiles, individuals who abuse kids. The loss of life penalty would criminalize any one that is a serial offender. It implies that any one that breaks the legislation greater than as soon as, beneath this laws, could be criminalized. If a landlord rents out their premises to an individual who is thought or perceived to be LGBTQ, and they’re convicted beneath this legislation greater than as soon as, they’re outlined as a serial offender. If any LGBTQ one that resides their life in Uganda breaks the legislation greater than as soon as — that may very well be talking out, that may very well be figuring out as LGBTQ, that may very well be two consenting adults — however so long as you’re convicted greater than as soon as, you then turn into a serial offender, and you might be executed.

AMY GOODMAN: What about two younger individuals, two minors?

FRANK MUGISHA: That’s very fascinating. This legislation, that the Ugandans, the Ugandan members of Parliament, are saying is right here to guard kids, this legislation would criminalize younger queer individuals, younger LGBTQ individuals, and I’m saying younger LGBTQ individuals who’re beneath the age of 18, to 3 years in jail, in the event that they’re recognized as LGBTQ. Effectively, beforehand, we have now seen that younger individuals, in the event that they recognized as LGBTQ, they may get frowned upon, they may get suspended from college or expelled from college. Proper now this legislation proposes that they need to go to jail for 3 years. And three years in Uganda for a kid, that’s the most penalty beneath the Youngsters’s Act.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, already there’s a ban on homosexual intercourse. Is that proper, Frank?

FRANK MUGISHA: There’s already a legislation that criminalizes same-sex acts to life in jail. We’ve got the sodomy legal guidelines that a lot of the African international locations have, that had been, sadly, launched by the British.

AMY GOODMAN: The place is all of this coming from? Discuss concerning the trajectory of this growing concentrating on, oppression of the LGBTQ neighborhood in Uganda.

FRANK MUGISHA: The oppression we’re seeing now in Uganda is just not Ugandan in any respect. The hatred, the radicalization of the Ugandan inhabitants to hate and concern LGBTQ individuals is just not Ugandan in any respect. The Ugandan society has all the time lived with gay individuals, as we name homosexuals in Uganda, with LGBTQ individuals in societies. They had been by no means killed. They had been by no means arrested. The homophobia and transphobia we’re seeing in the direction of queer and trans individuals in Uganda is from the West. It’s largely peddled by excessive American evangelicals.

Simply final week, we had American evangelicals in Uganda attending a convention that was titled “The Interparliamentary Convention on African Values.” However the agenda for this convention was anti-gay and anti-gender. The truth is, a few of the African members of parliament who attended this convention are attempting to introduce related laws in different international locations. For instance, Kenya, a member of parliament who attended this convention in Uganda, that was closely supported by American evangelicals, is now making an attempt to introduce an identical laws in Kenya. We’re seeing this anti-gay propaganda and anti-gay legislations transferring round Africa. Ghana already has one. We’re fearful about different international locations, like Burundi, Tanzania, that might introduce related legislations.

AMY GOODMAN: The Washington Put up just lately ran an article headlined “The U.S. connection to Uganda’s ‘kill the gays’ invoice.” I need to learn from the article. It says, “In 2020, London-based OpenDemocracy discovered that greater than 20 American non secular organizations advocating towards LGBTQ rights, secure abortion, entry to contraceptives and complete intercourse schooling had spent at the very least $54 million furthering their agendas in Africa since 2007. Near half that determine was spent in conservative, predominantly Christian Uganda alone.” That’s the piece from The Washington Put up. Frank, are you able to speak extra about this, and particularly concerning the U.S. evangelical pastor Scott Vigorous, who’s advised the Ugandan Parliament that homosexuality is a Western-imported illness?

FRANK MUGISHA: Scott Vigorous is an American evangelical pastor. And I’m certain many individuals in America, in the USA, might not know him. However in Uganda he’s well-known. When he first traveled to Uganda and he publicly held conferences with politicians, Ugandan authorities officers, he advised Ugandans homosexuality is a Western agenda that must be fought. He launched Western — excuse me — Western language that was not Ugandan. He launched the language of “homosexuals promote homosexuality.” He launched language like “homosexuals recruit kids into homosexuality.” He launched language, “Homosexuality is a Western agenda.” This was not Ugandan language. This was language that was launched to Ugandans by American evangelical Scott Vigorous.

We labored along with our companion, the Heart for Constitutional Rights, CCR, to carry Scott Vigorous accountable. The truth is, we went to courtroom. And for the primary time, a choose in Massachusetts mentioned that persecution of LGBTQ individuals might quantity to crimes towards humanity. And for us, we uncovered the hatred that Scott Vigorous was exporting to Uganda.

AMY GOODMAN: And speak concerning the function of the Ugandan president.

FRANK MUGISHA: The Ugandan president has had totally different views on this difficulty. He has advised Ugandans many occasions that homosexuality has all the time existed in Uganda, that homosexuals have all the time been in Uganda. However as a politician, he appears on the majority of Ugandans and what their views are. So, for my considering is that, when he signed the laws again then, he was responding to the views of a majority of Ugandans. However proper now he’s considering deeply about, you realize, if LGBTQ Ugandans existed in Uganda, why ought to they be criminalized? Why ought to they be killed? Why ought to they be despatched to jail? I believe these are ideas which can be weighing on within the president’s thoughts at this second.

AMY GOODMAN: So, discuss why you’re in the USA.

FRANK MUGISHA: I’m in the USA to attract consideration to this very excessive anti-gay laws in Uganda. And really many occasions, activists like myself have used advocacy to attract consideration, however not solely to attract consideration on the truth that this laws is in Uganda, to attract consideration that the largest supporters and the largest individuals driving this laws in Uganda and different international locations are literally from the USA. And that’s very key for very many Individuals to know, that the homophobia we’re seeing rising and rising in Africa is just not African. That’s being — it’s homophobia and transphobia being exported by American evangelicals. So I’m right here to attract consideration to that.

AMY GOODMAN: President Biden is anticipated to make his first go to to Africa as president of the USA. What function might he play, do you assume? What are you calling on him to say? And what about U.S. assist for international locations and presidents like Museveni in Uganda?

FRANK MUGISHA: President Biden has a really massive function. The U.S. is a really key and strategic companion to many international locations in Africa. So, I believe for President Biden to boost the priority of those legislations and the way these legislations have an effect on the partnerships with international locations like Uganda and different international locations in Africa, the priority how the residents, the Americans, are asking him questions — What are you doing about excessive legislations which can be exported and supported by Individuals themselves? — to boost the priority across the security and safety of LGBTQ individuals within the area, but in addition the partnerships that the USA has with Africa, and the way that may very well be affected by international locations which have these legislations.

AMY GOODMAN: To observe up, I need to discuss individuals in Uganda and what sort of organizing is occurring, each grassroots organizing, although they face nice hazard, although you face nice hazard — and I need to ask what it even means for it to be recognized you’re right here organizing — and likewise if persons are making an attempt to flee.

FRANK MUGISHA: There’s a number of resilience from LGBTQ individuals in Uganda. There’s a number of organizing. There may be visibility. Many individuals have mentioned a few of the backlash we’re seeing is due to the visibility that we have now as queer individuals in Uganda. And so, Ugandans are in shock to know that there are literally very many LGBTQ individuals within the nation. So, the organizing is there. The resilience is there. And we’ve been right here earlier than. Ten years in the past, we had an identical laws that was referred to as the “kill the gays” invoice. We’ve got civil society companions who’re supporting us within the nation. We’ve got authorized and different academia and specialists who’re supporting us and supporting our work. So the resilience and organizing within the nation is vibrant and there.

The problem now’s that the anti-gay actions have radicalized Ugandans towards any one that is supportive of the LGBTQ neighborhood. So now we’re shedding a few of our companions due to concern of homophobia and transphobia. We’re additionally seeing some members of the LGBTQ neighborhood getting fearful and scared that if this laws is handed, what is going to they do? Some are considering of fleeing the nation to neighboring Kenya or to different international locations. We’re already seeing individuals asking for that. However proper now in Uganda there’s a rise on crackdown of civil society organizations that assist the LGBTQ neighborhood. And a few of them are being singled out by the federal government and being focused to be closed down or shut down or their permits revoked. So there’s a massive concern from a few of our companions that in the event that they work with us, they danger being shut down or being arrested.

AMY GOODMAN: What about receiving political asylum, for instance, in the USA? What’s the U.S. coverage proper now?

FRANK MUGISHA: The U.S. coverage for LGBTQ asylum seekers — I imply, there are numerous LGBTQ asylum seekers who’ve been granted political asylum right here. However we’re calling on the U.S. authorities and different governments to make these insurance policies straightforward for a few of the communities, as a result of it’s not solely Uganda that’s having these challenges. There are various different LGBTQ individuals across the continent and from the World South who’re having these challenges. So we’re asking for these insurance policies to be made straightforward for a lot of of our colleagues, who want security in international locations that may settle for them, to entry these companies in a way more straightforward manner.

But in addition in the USA, when somebody arrives right here as searching for asylum, there is no such thing as a assist. There is no such thing as a assist for them to entry a few of the companies that the individual wants once they have simply arrived right here — authorized companies, housing companies, meals and different fundamental wants. So I believe it’s about time for the U.S. to start out interested by offering humanitarian assist for individuals who’re simply arriving and searching for assist, to be — to assist to reside in a secure setting, however, typically, for individuals to be accepted, for these insurance policies to be loosened up for LGBTQ individuals, and to work with civil society teams which can be making an attempt to offer this assist. I do know there are very many different teams which can be making an attempt to offer assist. I do know Rainbow Railroad in Canada is a kind of teams that’s making an attempt to ask the U.S. authorities to offer extra assist to assist LGBTQ individuals who’re in harmful locations to come back to security.

AMY GOODMAN: Frank Mugisha, in 2011, your buddy David Kato, who’s actually thought-about the daddy of Uganda’s homosexual rights motion, was bludgeoned to loss of life. Are you able to speak concerning the form of bodily violence individuals face, and if the state of affairs has improved in any respect? And though it’s over a decade later, my deepest condolences.

FRANK MUGISHA: Thanks a lot. I imply, it was very painful, but in addition worrying, for many people, when David, my colleague, David Kato, was murdered. David Kato was murdered at his home. So, that, you realize, petrified me. And many individuals, certainly, had been fearful and scared for their very own private lives, but in addition for the protection of the neighborhood.

Proper after that, a number of years later, the state of affairs improved a bit for the LGBTQ neighborhood, however, most just lately, we’ve seen the state of affairs worsen. Many LGBTQ individuals in Uganda have been violated. Many LGBTQ individuals in Uganda are getting arrested. There’s a rise in blackmail and extortion. There’s a rise of social exclusion. And proper now what we’re seeing is just not solely crackdown on LGBTQ individuals from legislation enforcement, however we’re seeing harassment from extraordinary Ugandans. Abnormal Ugandans. We’re fearful that if this laws is signed, we’ll see mob justice. We’re seeing communities, for example, raiding colleges the place perceived LGBTQ individuals work. We’re seeing workshops and occasions getting raided. We’re seeing individuals getting arrested for merely — and getting undressed. Transgender individuals on nationwide tv are getting undressed. So the state of affairs has gotten worse prior to now yr and up to date months.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, you had been arrested in 2016 over your advocacy. How are individuals, particularly the LGBTQ neighborhood, handled in jail?

FRANK MUGISHA: After I was arrested in 2016, in fact, there was a number of derogatory and degrading and merciless and inhuman therapy once I was arrested. This occurs each time an LGBTQ individual is arrested. Quite a lot of verbal abuse, generally bodily abuse, and likewise a number of insults, derogatory and inhuman therapy occurs in lots of the police stations when LGBTQ individuals are arrested, but in addition generally delayed or denial of entry by the attorneys who gained’t assist the LGBTQ individuals.

AMY GOODMAN: , you’re right here in the USA now, lobbying, educating individuals about what’s occurring in your nation, in Uganda, in your continent, Africa. I needed to get your impression of what’s occurring right here. In line with the ACLU, there have been 419 anti-LGBT legal guidelines launched in the USA, simply on this yr alone. What message does this ship to politicians in Uganda and Africa?

FRANK MUGISHA: That is excellent to notice, to begin with, to see that the problem of homophobia, transphobia, the backlash the LGBT neighborhood is dealing with, is just not solely an African downside, it’s a worldwide downside. So Africa shouldn’t be seen as the one, you realize, homophobic place. However homophobia and transphobia is going on, and it’s more and more world wide now.

The sign that these anti-gay legislations which can be being launched in the USA is sending to Africa is just not good, as a result of most and a few of the textual content that we’re seeing in a few of the legislations, for instance, in Uganda and different locations in Africa, is just like textual content of the legislations being launched right here. However for African politicians, that is good. That is good for them. They’re utilizing that in saying we will — even in developed international locations, homosexuality is just not accepted. And I’ve seen movies of misinformation or disinformation circulating round, quoting a few of the political leaders and saying they don’t assist homosexuality. And, you realize, so, the politicians in Africa will use something homophobic and transphobic to attempt to justify what they’re doing.

AMY GOODMAN: Lastly, Frank Mugisha, the Ugandan Parliament handed the laws three weeks in the past, March twenty first. The Ugandan president has but to signal it. What’s taking him so lengthy to determine? Does it must do with the extent of activism of the LGBTQ and human rights neighborhood?

FRANK MUGISHA: Part of that, sure. A part of the rationale the president is just not signing the laws, the president of Uganda is thought to rigorously take into consideration points earlier than taking a call. And I consider that’s what he’s doing now. I consider he might — he might or might not seek the advice of the occasion, his occasion. Additionally, I consider he would possibly attempt to seek the advice of — I don’t know if he’s consulting — perhaps attempt to seek the advice of different stakeholders on this earlier than he indicators. However I additionally consider that our advocacy, civil society and native voices from Uganda which have spoken out on this, positively have — they’ve inspired him to not signal the laws hurriedly, as a result of there are native voices amidst all this which have spoken out towards this laws.

AMY GOODMAN: And your remaining world name? We’re a U.S.-based present, however we’re a worldwide TV/radio/web broadcast.

FRANK MUGISHA: The USA and the worldwide neighborhood wants to concentrate to what’s occurring in Uganda with this laws, as a result of the concern is that if this laws in Uganda is signed by the president, handed into legislation, it is going to be replicated across the whole Africa. And it’s important for the worldwide neighborhood to companion with the native voices on the bottom, not solely in Uganda however in different international locations the place queer individuals want a number of assist and solidarity. And it’s important for the worldwide neighborhood to hearken to the native voices and take course from the native voices on how they’ll assist and the way they’ll interact and the way they’ll present solidarity to the LGBT neighborhood, that wants this assist urgently. Thanks.

AMY GOODMAN: I do have one final query as you head house: Are you scared?

FRANK MUGISHA: I’m very public and open, and my activism is thought. I’m not fearful. I’m solely fearful after this legislation has been signed.

AMY GOODMAN: Frank Mugisha, thanks for becoming a member of us, and please be secure.

FRANK MUGISHA: Thanks a lot.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Struggle and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

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