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Uganda Has Passed A Bill That Would Make Gay Sex And Sex Work Even More Illegal

The Ugandan parliament has passed a bill, which if approved by the president, will further criminalize same-sex relationships and sex work in the country. aa

The Sexual Offences Bill, which MPs passed on Monday May 3, aims to consolidate all laws relating to sexual offenses in the country, according to Monicah Amoding, the MP who proposed the draft legislation.

The bill criminalizes incest, sexual harassment, sex tourism and indecent communication but also keeps sections that were first enforced in the country during British colonial rule. This means it will further strengthen Uganda’s anti-gay laws, branding same-sex couples as an “unnatural offense” and performing acts against “the order of nature”.

Same-sex couples could face up to 10 years in prison. Amoding said the bill will “help us in the prevention of sexual violence, enhance punishment for sexual offenders and protection of victims during trials” and said the anti-gay laws support “societal values”. “We are not yet ready for those [homosexual] rights,” she said.

“Those who are criticising us should wait for Uganda to grow up in that area. Our society hasn’t come of age to appreciate those rights that some parts of the world want us to do.”

Although the bill would protect sexual assault survivors’ rights and criminalize sexual harassment by people in positions of authority, MPs removed progressive clauses such as the necessity of consent in a sexual act, the Guardian reported.

The bill has been criticized by human rights organizations and LGBT activists. “This is yet another law that will be used by law enforcers to harass, blackmail and arrest LGBT persons,” the director of Sexual Minorities Uganda said, adding that he did not understand the need for the clause as same-sex relations are already criminalised in Uganda’s penal code.

“The Sexual Offences Bill does not do enough for survivors, conflates consensual sexual acts with violence, and offers tools to persecute LGBT people and sex workers in Uganda,” Human Rights Watch said. It called on the president to reject the bill and revise it to address sexual violence in a way that respects human rights.

In 2018, Theresa May, who was British Prime Minister at the time, apologized for the UK’s role in criminalizing same-sex relationships in former colonies.

Anti-gay laws that were passed under British rule are still being used in 37 of the Commonwealth’s 53 nations. She stated that the laws were “wrong then and wrong now.”

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