After a chaotic parliamentary debate late into the night, it was clear: Uganda would pass a new anti-homosexual law. In the worst case, homosexuals who are guilty of “serious” crimes face the death penalty.

The parliamentarians did not specify which offenses are included in detail. People who knowingly harbor, provide medical care or legal assistance to homosexual people can also be sentenced to up to ten years in prison.

The behavior of the parliamentarians during the debate on Tuesday showed how heated the atmosphere in Uganda is. A member of parliament demanded: “Homosexuals should be castrated.” In English, this can mean both sterilizing and castrating homosexuals. Fox Odoi-Oywelowo, one of the few MPs to criticize the law, was hissed at by his peers. An earlier version of the law did not provide for the death penalty, but a clause was added during the parliamentary debate.

Hate speech against homosexuals is the order of the day in the East African country with around 45 million inhabitants. Religious and political leaders sometimes outdo each other with homophobic statements – long before the law was passed. Although anti-gay laws are already in place, the new law is even more intrusive to privacy.

Worsening of the situation for gays is feared

Sam Ganafa, leader of the Ugandan gay rights group Spectrum, now calls on members of the LGBTQ community to be cautious: “Everyone is calling for our persecution. Members of the Muslim faith are even calling for our deaths.” Gays and lesbians are already losing their jobs or are homeless because landlords are sending them away. Now the attacks would increase. The English abbreviation LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans people and queer people.

“With this law, we have no choice but fear and danger. The best way is to leave this country,” a 23-year-old trans woman told dpa on Wednesday. Two weeks ago she was attacked by a group of teenagers who threatened to remove her testicles to “make her a real woman”.

The law will not come into force until it is signed by Uganda’s long-term president, Yoweri Museveni. However, the 78-year-old has already expressed his goodwill in the run-up to the farewell. Museveni had vetoed earlier laws such as 2021 because he feared criticism from the West. A law passed in 2013, which also provided for the death penalty, was overturned by the highest court in Uganda because of a procedural error.

Precarious conditions almost all over East Africa

Criticism from abroad came from Human Rights Watch and UN human rights commissioner Volker Türk, who described the law as one of the “worst of its kind in the world”. The European Union was also deeply concerned. “The EU rejects the death penalty under all circumstances,” said a spokesman for foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

In other East African countries, too, the climate for gays and lesbians has recently worsened. Kenya’s President William Ruto, a self-confessed Christian, said in early March that homosexuality had no place in his country. In almost all East African countries, homosexuals face imprisonment, in Somalia even the death penalty.

In Africa as a whole, Christian or Muslim beliefs are still very important. Many people feel that homosexuality does not fit with traditional morals. In addition, African politicians have repeatedly claimed that homosexuality is a Western ideology that should be foisted on Africa.