London protest against the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill
London protest against the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill (Peter Tatchell Foundation)

Uganda's new anti-gay law violates Article 21 of the Ugandan constitution and Articles 2 and 3 of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights - both of which guarantee equal treatment and non-discrimination to all people.

It is part of a broader attack on civil society and is symptomatic of Uganda's drift to Mugabe-style authoritarianism. This wider repression includes a clamp down on protests, strikes, the media and opposition activists.

The Bill extends the existing penalty of life imprisonment for same-sex intercourse to all other same-sex behaviour, including the mere touching of another person with the intent to have homosexual relations.

Life imprisonment is also the penalty for contracting a same-sex marriage.

Promoting homosexuality and aiding and abetting others to commit homosexual acts will be punishable by five to seven years jail. These new crimes are likely to include membership and funding of LGBT organisations, advocacy of LGBT human rights, supportive counselling of LGBT persons and the provision of condoms or safer sex advice to LGBT people.

A person in authority – gay or heterosexual - who fails to report violators to the police within 24 hours will be sentenced to three years behind bars.

Astonishingly, the new legislation has an extra-territorial jurisdiction. It will also apply to Ugandan citizens or foreign residents of Uganda who commit these 'crimes' while abroad, in countries where such behaviour is not a criminal offence. Violators overseas will be subjected to extradition, trial and punishment in Uganda.

This bill is in some respects even more draconian than the extreme homophobic laws of countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been widely misrepresented as increasing the penalty for homosexuality to life imprisonment. This is incorrect. The penalty for anal intercourse has always been life imprisonment. The new law increases the penalty for other same-sex acts - including mere sexual touching - from seven years to life imprisonment.