The legislation – known as the ‘Kill the Gays’ bill – was nullified five years ago on a technicality, but the government now has plans to resurrect it within weeks.
“Our current penal law is limited. It only criminalises the act. We want it made clear that anyone who is even involved in promotion and recruitment has to be criminalised. Those that do grave acts will be given the death sentence.”
He was optimistic it would pass with the necessary two-thirds of members present – a shortfall in numbers killed a similar bill in 2014 – as the government had lobbied legislators ahead of its re-introduction.
“We have been talking to the MPs and we have mobilised them in big numbers,” said Lokodo. “Many are supportive.”
Even without it, under British colonial law, gay sex is punishable with up to life imprisonment and activists said the new bill risked unleashing attacks.
“Bringing back anti-gay legislation would invariably lead to a spike in discrimination and atrocities,”said Zahra Mohamed of the Toronto-based charity Stephen Lewis Foundation.
The United States reduced aid, imposed visa restrictions and cancelled military exercises. The World Bank, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands also suspended or redirected aid.
Lokodo said Uganda was prepared for any negative response.
“It is a concern,” he said. But we are ready. We don’t like blackmailing. Much as we know that this is going to irritate our supporters in budget and governance, we can’t just bend our heads and bow before people who want to impose a culture which is foreign to us.”
Pepe Julian Onziema from Sexual Minorities Uganda, an alliance of LGBT+ organisations, said its members were fearful of the bill.
“When the law was introduced last time, it whipped up homophobic sentiment and hate crimes,’ said Onziema.
“Hundreds of LGBT+ people have been forced to leave the country as refugees and more will follow if this law is enacted. It will criminalise us from even advocated for LGBT+ rights, let alone supporting and protecting sexual minorities.”
Onziema said three gay men and one transgender woman had been killed in homophobic attacks in Uganda this year – the latest last week when a gay man was bludgeoned to death.