It’s only three days old but the full horror of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act is already shrouded in myth.
Most know it’s draconian, few realize just how bad it is. The confusion has been fuelled by government lies, media misreporting and the fact the text of the act has only just become available.
It was originally dubbed the ‘Kill the Gays Bill’ but the death penalty was replaced by life imprisonment before it became law.
So here we explain the letter of the law and what it means for LGBTI people in Uganda.
And some of the worst risks of the law isn’t even mentioned in the act – that it encourages mob attacks, police blackmail and media harassment.
Life in jail
1 Gay or lesbian sex is now punishable by life imprisonment, even for a first-time offence.
2 ‘Sex’ in this case means not just anal or oral sex, but any sexual contact at all.
3 Touching another person with the ‘intention’ of homosexuality can be punished by life in jail. Even if they are touched through clothes. A kiss, holding someone’s hand or even patting them on the back – if deemed by the court to be an attempt to have sex – can land you in jail for life.
4 If you ‘attempt’ to have homosexual sex you can be jailed for seven years. The word ‘attempt’ is not defined, but it could be something as innocent as sending a sexy text message or asking someone out.
5 Those considered guilty of ‘aggravated homosexuality’ including repeat offenders, anyone with HIV or where you are having sex with under 18s, even if you are boyfriends or girlfriends and just a few days older.
6 An ‘attempt’ to commit ‘aggravated’ homosexuality could land you in jail for life. In other words, you could end your days in prison, just for asking someone for a second date.
Attacks and blackmail
7 A large part of the bill focuses on ‘victims’ – those allegedly lured or forced into homosexuality against their will. They are guaranteed anonymity so journalists and others can’t name them.
8 As well as going to jail, those found ‘guilty’ of lesbian and gay sex may be forced to compensate their ‘victims’ for the ‘physical, sexual or psychological harm caused’. There is no limit on the amount of compensation a court may order you to pay.
9 Experts say all this may make the law a ‘blackmailers’ charter’. So-called ‘victims’ may report cases in the hope of getting compensation.
10 The law says ‘a victim of homosexuality shall not be penalized for any crime committed as a direct result of his or her involvement in homosexuality’. This could mean a ‘victim’ could assault a gay man or lesbian but it would be the gay man or lesbian who would be prosecuted, while the ‘victim’ would get away with it.
11 The bill also offers seven years in jail for people who ‘detain’ others to have sex or use fraud or ‘false pretense’ to ‘conspire’ to have gay sex.
12 Anyone who ‘aids, abets, counsels or procures’ people to have gay or lesbian sex may get seven years jail. This could include those who provide sexual health services, friends who introduce gay people to each other or even priests sympathetic to the LGBTI community.
13 If someone has gay or lesbian sex in your house and you know about it, you are considered to be running a ‘brothel’. That’s even if no money has changed hands and they are lifelong partners. It could land you in prison for five years. So someone could end up in jail just for having a same-sex couple stay with them.
14 And it doesn’t stop there. The ‘brothel’ part of the law may mean landlords are unwilling to rent homes to LGBTI people for fear they will be prosecuted.
15 If you ‘marry’ someone of the same sex, you could get life in jail. But the term ‘marriage’ is not defined in the bill and it’s impossible to ‘marry’ someone of the same gender in Uganda as marriage equality is banned in the constitution.
16 If you conduct a same-sex marriage ceremony, the jail term is up to seven years and the marriage license for the premises you did it at could be cancelled.
17 ‘Promoting homosexuality’ – which can include distributing gay-friendly films or offering office space to an LGBTI equality organization – will get you five to seven years in prison, and a UGX100million ($40,000 â‚¬30,000) fine. Gay-friendly companies operating in Uganda could see their directors sent to prison.
18 Under this part of the law, even talking positively about LGBTI people on Facebook or Twitter could see you jailed and fined.