NAIROBI, 16 October 2009 (PlusNews) - A draft bill before the
Ugandan parliament that seeks to impose stricter sanctions on
homosexuality would drive men who have sex with men further
underground, making it even more difficult for them to access HIV
services, according to AIDS activists.
According to Uganda's New Vision newspaper, the draft bill,
tabled by ruling party MP David Bahati, proposes a seven-year
jail term for anyone who "attempts to commit the offence" or who
"aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage in acts of
"If this bill is passed it will be a clear violation of human
rights and will push men who have sex with men even further
underground than they are," Beatrice Were, a Ugandan HIV/AIDS
activist, told IRIN/PlusNews.
"Our national strategic plan for HIV/AIDS aims to achieve
universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care, but if
people are criminalized and not allowed to exist, how can they
access these services?" she added.
Homosexual acts, or "carnal knowledge against the order of
nature", are already criminalized in Uganda, carrying a maximum
penalty of life imprisonment.
Under the draft bill, "promotion of homosexuality", including
publishing information or providing funds, premises for
activities, or other resources, is also punishable by a
seven-year sentence or a fine of US$50,000.
If passed, the bill would see the death penalty handed down for
the crime of "aggravated homosexuality" - a sexual assault
committed against a member of the same sex who is under 18 or
disabled. Anyone found guilty of the offence of homosexuality
would be forced to take an HIV test.
"Bahati's proposed bill also supports stigma and discrimination
against HIV-positive people, and would undermine years of efforts
to tackle the epidemic," Solome Nakaweesi-Kimbugwe, a human
rights activist, and Frank Mugisha, co-chair of the rights group,
Sexual Minorities Uganda, said in a statement.
"Uganda has been considered a 'best practice' leader in the fight
against HIV and AIDS," the statement continued. "If [the bill is]
passed, this leadership status would be put in serious question."
The Uganda AIDS Commission classes men who have sex with men
(MSMs) as "most at risk", yet there are no HIV programmes
targeting them and no action has been taken in response to a 2009
study by UNAIDS and the Uganda government recommending that
"legal impediments to the inclusion of most-at-risk populations,
including commercial sex workers, MSMs and IDUs [intravenous drug
users], in the HIV/AIDS national response should be reviewed".
"Morals do not stop HIV; what stops HIV is the evidence from
science - we know that using condoms can prevent infection, using
PEP [post-exposure prophylaxis] after exposure can stop
infection, and ARVs [life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs]
prevent mother-to-child transmission," Were said. "People must
feel comfortable enough to seek these services regardless of
their sexual orientation."