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Uganda’s Anti-Gay Crusade

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which President Yoweri Museveni signed into law in May, violates the fundamental human rights of the country’s LGBTQ+ community, imposing harsh punishments – even the death penalty – on adults who engage in consensual sexual acts. The Ugandan constitutional court must not allow it to stand.

KAMPALA – In the 1990s, as a 15-year-old high-school student in Uganda, I was a member of a “writers’ club” that would summarize for our fellow students key articles from the lone copy of the local newspaper our school received each day. One day, I was assigned a “news” article identifying the schools that were suspected of condoning or supporting homosexuality – and the students who were suspected of being gay. As I worked, my stomach ached for all the young people who would be shamed, ostracized, and even beaten by their communities for their sexuality or gender identity. It ached for me, too, because I already knew – but had not said out loud – that I was queer.

Over time, that ache turned into anger, and that anger motivated me to fight back. So, when Uganda’s constitutional court begins hearings on the Anti-Homosexuality Act – one of the world’s toughest anti-LGBTQ+ laws – I will be there, along with many other activists and allies, as a litigant. The hearings are the next battleground in the fight not only to protect the basic rights of queer Ugandans, but also to discredit non-Ugandan homophobes, such as Scott Lively and Sharon Slater, who have been pouring their resources into perpetuating bigotry around the world.

The Anti-Homosexuality Act, which President Yoweri Museveni signed into law in May, is hardly Uganda’s first effort to criminalize same-sex relations. The country already has in place an anti-sodomy law – a legacy of British colonial rule. Moreover, in 2014, Uganda passed anti-homosexuality legislation that effectively laid the foundations for the 2023 law.