Homosexuality has been a criminal offence in Uganda since the British colonial era. For "homosexual conduct" both in public and in private, a life sentence can be imposed. Homosexuality is considered an "unnatural act" in Uganda: Anyone who violates "against nature" or knows of people who do so is liable to prosecution (Uganda Penal Code of 1950, Section 145). However, as in many African countries, homosexuality is a taboo subject in Uganda far beyond the legal framework.1
In large parts of society, the principle that homosexuality is both anti-Christian and anti-African applies. This was not always the case: before colonization, homosexuality was accepted in Uganda. Even Mwanga II, King of Buganda, the largest of the sub-national kingdoms of Uganda, was a confessed homosexual.2 It was only with colonization and the spread of the Christian religion that homosexuality became a criminal offense.
In the 2000s, the persecution of homosexuals in Uganda increased. In 2009, a bill was presented in parliament that would punish homosexuality more severely - up to the death penalty. After international criticism of the plan, economic sanctions by the USA and the discontinuation of aid payments by European states, the draft was watered down. Nevertheless, it envisaged a life sentence as the maximum penalty. The law came into force in 2014, but the Constitutional Court of Uganda found it to be inadmissible, so that the law from the colonial era applies as it stands today.
In its Country Note for Uganda, the German Foreign Office states that officially there has been no persecution of homosexuals by the state.3 However, neither the human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) nor the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) share this conclusion. This is how HRW describes in its Uganda- Annual Report of 2017 on how gay activists had to cancel several events after Simon Lokodo, Uganda's Minister for Ethics and Integrity, threatened the organizers with violence and arrest. Lokodo is considered by LGBT* activists as "the country's leading homophobe".4
The persecution of homosexuals occurs to a large extent also from within society. From the reports of HRW and ILGA, the Lesbian and Gay Association in Germany (LSVD) also concludes that LGBT* persons in Uganda are exposed to "massive social exclusion".
1 ILGA: State Sponsored Homophobia – Report, 12th Edition, May 2017
2 From Mwanga to Museveni: Sex, Politics and Religion in Uganda – By Magnus Taylor
3 Deutsches Auswärtiges Amt: Uganda – Reise- und Sicherheitshinweise
4 Human Rights Watch: World Report 2018, Uganda Events 2017
Text: Matthias Kirsch