• Uganda led the way by passing the draconian 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which awaits the presidential assent.
• In Kenya, Homa Bay MP George Kaluma has drafted an oppressive law that seeks to impose a life sentence to anyone found engaging in “unnatural act”.
The recent past has seen intensified efforts by leaders and policy makers in Africa to pass inhumane laws against the LGBTIQ+ community.
Uganda led the way by passing the draconian 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which awaits the presidential assent. The law, among other things, provides for the death penalty for the offence of “aggravated homosexuality” and a 10-year sentence for real and/or perceived gender and/or sexual orientation contrary to the binary categories of male or female.
In Kenya, Homa Bay MP George Kaluma has drafted another oppressive law that seeks to, among other things, impose a life sentence to anyone found engaging in “unnatural act”.
This law is an upgrade of the already existing penalties provided for same sex conduct in the Sections 162 and 165 of the Penal Code.
In Ghana, Parliament is set to discuss the anti-LGBTIQ+ law that was introduced by legislator Samuel George. Although Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo recently said the substantial elements of the bill have already been modified after the interventions of the country's Attorney General, George has maintained that bill remains as “tough and rigid” as he tabled it.
The increased introduction of laws meant to further make the already bad situation for the LGBTIQ+ community worse posses the question: Why now, why the vigour and who is behind it?
Beyond these laws there is also increased political rhetoric and hate spewed by leaders. Tanzanian President Suluhu Hassan, for example, recently termed homosexuality as an “imported cultures” and cautioned the youth against it.
In Kenya, a number of MPs reacting to the Supreme Court decision that upheld the right to association for LGBTIQ+ persons took to social media to express disappointment and spread hate.
A keen look at these laws lifts the lid on what meets the eye.
Without negating the injury that these laws have on the life and persons of LGBTIQ+, the laws will in a big way have a negative effect on other rights, including the right to freedom of expression, rights access to information, rights to health, right to privacy, political rights, media freedoms and right to safety and security of persons.
The Kaluma Bill, which he claims intends to further the provisions of Article 45(2) of the Constitution and to protect the family unit, will ban comprehensive sexuality education in schools.
One wonders if a country that is ranked the third highest in terms of teen pregnancies globally needs banning of comprehensive sexual education or increased of the same. Further and in according to the National Aids Control Council adolescents and young people aged 29 years and below account for over 61 per cent of all new HIV infections in Kenya.
The country is also battling sexual and gender based violence perpetrated against minors. Banning of comprehensive sexual reproductive health education will bar this critical population from information thus worsening the teen pregnancy, SGBV and HIV-Aids situation in Kenya.
Other proposals to limit the right to privacy, assembly, demonstration and association to “homosexual convicts” is not only absurd and ambiguous but also unconstitutional. Article 24 of the Constitution stipulates instances where rights and freedoms can be limited and to what extent. The blanket limitation of the above rights by the said law fails to take into consideration the relevant factors provided for when limiting rights which is on case-by-case basis.
In Uganda, the regressive law will also go beyond the assumed primary target i.e. LGBTIQ+ persons to media actors who are perceived to “promote” homosexuality. In county where dissent and freedom of expression is always under attack, the law is likely to provide an easy opportunity to attack media houses and those of different opinion from the government.
As the world moves towards the abolition of death penalty and protection of the right to life, the Uganda bill will only drag back the country to joining the likes of Somalia, Mauritania and Sudan, where real or perceived homosexuality is punishable by death. The law will also negatively impact the critical work of civil society actors as those seen to fund the work also be on the hot seat.
It is, therefore, important to call out the anti-LGBTIQ+ laws for not only violating the rights and freedoms of those that identify as so but also for being a threat to other rights.
Lest we forget, “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialists. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me” Martin Niemoller
Muthuri Kathure is the Senior Program Officer (Civic Space) at Article 19 Eastern Africa.