Tag Archives: LGBTQ+

Outlawing LGBTQ+ Rights in 2023: The Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda

by Shiva Ivaturi

Image: Sally Hayden/ZUMA/imago images


“Of course, homosexuals are disgusting”, said President Yoweri Musaveni of Uganda to a CNN correspondent in 2016. The subject of much controversy, at the time individuals simply thought of this as an incredibly disparaging and blatantly homophobic remark. Yet, it has culminated into a law today that is believed to be the most oppressive modern-day law against LGBTQ+ individuals in the world.

The proposed 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced in Uganda, that would have criminalized homosexuality with sentences of life imprisonment. The bill also targeted those who promote homosexuality or fail to report homosexual activities to the authorities, including medical professionals and human rights advocates. The bill generated widespread international condemnation, with many countries, including the United States, threatening to cut off aid to Uganda if the bill was passed (Al Jazeera, 2014).

On March 9, 2023, Asuman Basalirwa, a member of parliament, introduced the 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Parliament (Atuhaire, 2023). This bill is a revised and more extreme version of the 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Act. The 2023 bill, however, expands on the criminalization of same-sex acts and is considered one of the most extreme anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the world (Human Rights Watch, 2023). Its provisions include criminalizing people for holding out as a lesbian, gay, transgender, or any other sexual or gender identity that is not in line with the binary categories of male and female (BBC News, 2023).

The 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Bill follows months of hostile rhetoric against sexual and gender minorities by public figures in Uganda, as well as government crackdowns on LGBTQ+ rights groups, human rights groups, government critics, and civil society (Human Rights Watch, 2023). Uganda’s penal code already punishes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature,” which is interpreted to mean homosexual relations, with a punishment of life in prison, although the provision is rarely enforced (Shaw, 2023). In introducing the bill, Basaliriwa said its purpose was to “look at this colonial law and have it in tandem with the current situation” (BBC News, 2023).

What is the law?

The maximum penalty for homosexual acts is life imprisonment, while the maximum penalty for attempted homosexual acts is imprisonment for 10 years. Furthermore, people convicted of homosexuality or attempted homosexuality cannot be employed in childcare facilities even after their release. Knowingly renting premises to people who wish to engage in homosexual acts on such premises is punishable by imprisonment for 10 years. The maximum penalty for promoting homosexuality is imprisonment for 10 years. Purporting to contract a same-sex marriage, as well as knowingly attending a purported same-sex marriage ceremony, would also result in imprisonment for up to 10 years (Atuhaire, 2023).

Moreover, the bill would make it a crime to “promote” homosexuality, which could include anything from expressing support for LGBTQ+ rights to providing health care services to members of the community. This provision would have far-reaching implications, as it would effectively criminalize the work of LGBTQ+ organizations and healthcare providers who offer critical services to a marginalized community (Human Rights Watch, 2023).

The bill also contains a provision that would require individuals to report any knowledge of homosexual activity or risk facing imprisonment for up to six months. This requirement would apply to a wide range of individuals, including doctors, teachers, and parents, and could create a culture of suspicion and fear that would make it even more difficult for LGBTQ+ individuals to seek out support and care (Shaw, 2023).

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, has called the bill “devastating and deeply disturbing” and urged President Museveni not to sign it into law. In a statement, Türk said that the adoption of such a discriminatory bill was a “deeply troubling development” and warned that it would have far-reaching consequences for human rights and the rule of law in Uganda (Muhumuza, 2023; Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2023).

What is the law based on?

The 2023 Anti Homosexuality Bill in Uganda aims to “protect the traditional family” through measures that, according to the bill, strengthen the nation’s capacity to deal with emerging internal and external threats to the traditional, heterosexual family (Human Rights Watch, 2023). Literature evaluating the effects of changes in legal recognition of same-sex couples on heterosexual marriage in the U.S. found that same-sex marriage had no meaningful effect on individuals in different-sex households (Shaw, 2023). Additionally, studies from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and the Netherlands have shown that extending relationship recognition to same-sex couples had no obvious impact on the marriage rates or divorce rates of different-sex couples (Shaw, 2023).

In Uganda, there has often been a notion that homosexuality makes children and youth vulnerable to sexual abuse. Research suggests that most pedophiles who prey upon young people identify as heterosexual, and their victims are more likely to be female (BBC News, 2023). Moreover, research has found that children raised by gay or lesbian parents are as well-adjusted psychologically, emotionally, and socially as children raised by heterosexual parents (Human Rights Watch, 2023; Shaw, 2023). The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Sociological Association both agree that children raised by same-sex parents fare just as well as children raised by different-sex parents (Shaw, 2023).

Another major notion fundamentally assumed by the bill is that same-sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic. While there is little consensus on the exact reasons why an individual has a heterosexual or homosexual orientation, current scientific and professional consensus reflects the understanding that homosexuality is not a choice, but rather a complex interplay of genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural factors (Shaw, 2023). Therefore, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s recognition that same-sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic is not supported by scientific research.

The 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Bill is a deeply concerning piece of legislation that represents a significant setback for human rights and the rule of law in Uganda (Human Rights Watch, 2023). Its provisions have now criminalized same-sex relationships and identities, stigmatized LGBTQ+ individuals, and created a culture of fear and suspicion that are already making it difficult for individuals across the country to seek out care.

International condemnation of the bill has been swift and unequivocal, with human rights organizations and governments around the world calling on Uganda to abandon the legislation (Al Jazeera, 2014; Muhumuza, 2023; Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2023; Stout, 2023). Ultimately, these efforts were not successful as the bill was signed into law.


The anti-homosexuality law in Uganda will have devastating effects on the LGBTQ+ community, with individuals facing persecution, violence, and even death (Human Rights Watch, 2023). Frank Mugisha, Uganda’s most prominent LGBTQ+ rights activist, has experienced firsthand the dangers of being openly gay in Uganda. He explains, “The Ugandan population has been radicalised to fear and hate homosexuals” (Reuters, 2023). This anti-gay sentiment has been fanned by politicians and religious organizations, culminating in the passage of a bill that would criminalize even identifying as LGBTQ+ (Atuhaire, 2023). The bill, which Mugisha fears will be signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni, would punish the “promotion” of homosexuality with up to 20 years in prison and impose the death penalty for so-called aggravated homosexuality, including having gay sex while HIV-positive (Atuhaire, 2023; Human Rights Watch, 2023).

Mugisha has received numerous death threats and has even had a colleague and friend, David Kato, bludgeoned to death in 2011 (Al Jazeera, 2014). Mugisha refuses to back down despite the dangers he faces, saying, “I guess I am going to be in trouble a lot because I am not going to stop” (Reuters, 2023). He feels a sense of obligation to fight for the rights of LGBTQ+ Ugandans, many of whom have fled the country or their homes for safe houses since the bill was passed (Reuters, 2023). Mugisha believes that the anti-gay sentiment is not Ugandan but is Western in nature, citing that homosexuality was first outlawed under British colonial rule and that Ugandan individuals were initially wary of homosexuality but did not have the intent to harm homosexual individuals under the full force of the law (Reuters, 2023).

Mugisha’s story highlights the immense bravery and resilience of the LGBTQ+ community in Uganda, who continue to fight for their rights despite facing immense persecution. As he explains, “Looking at this legislation, I do not think it will survive” (Reuters, 2023). We must support the efforts of activists like Mugisha and stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community in Uganda and around the world, fighting against discrimination and hate.

Works Cited

Uganda: New anti-gay bill further threatens rights. Human Rights Watch. (2023, March 9). Retrieved April 9, 2023, from https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/03/09/uganda-new-anti-gay-bill-further-threatens-rights

Al Jazeera. (2014, June 20). Uganda Aid Cut over anti-gay law. News | Al Jazeera. Retrieved April 9, 2023, from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2014/6/20/us-cuts-aid-to-uganda-over-anti-gay-law

Atuhaire, P. (2023, March 22). Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill: Life in prison for saying you’re gay. BBC News. Retrieved April 9, 2023, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-65034343

Muhumuza, R. (2023, March 22). Un rights chief calls Uganda anti-gay Bill ‘deeply troubling’. PBS. Retrieved April 9, 2023, from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/un-rights-chief-calls-uganda-anti-gay-bill-deeply-troubling

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. (2023, March 22). Uganda: Türk urges president not to sign shocking anti-homosexuality Bill. United Nations. Retrieved April 9, 2023, from https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2023/03/uganda-turk-urges president-not-sign-shocking-anti-homosexuality-bill

Reuters. (2023, April 13). Ugandan LGBTQ activist readies for the fight of his life. Reuters. Retrieved April 16, 2023, from https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/ugandan-lgbtq-activist-readies-fight-his-life-2023-04-13/

Stout, N. (2023, March 22). White House threatens to pull aid to Uganda over anti-LGBTQ bill. Courthouse News Service. Retrieved April 9, 2023, from https://www.courthousenews.com/white-house-threatens-to-pull-aid-to-uganda-over-anti-lgbtq-bill/

Shaw, A. (2023, April 5). Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2023. Williams Institute. Retrieved April 9, 2023, from https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/uganda-anti-homosexuality-2023/

Representation matters: a look into representation of the LGBTQ+ community in The Owl House

by Anonymous

Courtesy of Disney

We always say that “representation matters”, but what constitutes good representation of minorities in the media?

Disney’s animated show “The Owl House” was released in 2020 and has received much praise for the diversity in its characters. However, it was announced (not long after its release) that the show will not continue past season 3, as the show “did not fit Disney’s brand”; no official statement was ever released regarding how exactly it deviates from the usual Disney series (Anderton, J, 2021). Though it is saddening to see it end so quickly, The Owl House was truly an amazing show.

There are definitely other examples of good representation, and it is far from perfect, but I chose The Owl House as I believe that representation in children’s media is especially important. Many studies have shown that as children learn by observing their surroundings, they are impressionable and very easily influenced by the media that they consume (“Adolescents and the Media: Medical and Psychological Impact,” 1995). Positive representation of different minority groups in children’s media encourages the younger generation to learn more about different communities, subverting existing stereotypes against certain minority groups.

Therefore, to celebrate the release of the first episode of the last season a few months back, let’s take a look into why I personally believe The Owl House to be a great example of what representation in media should look like.

One of my favourite things about the representation in this show is that they are not simply putting in characters as “token minorities”. More often than not, shows nowadays tend to include minorities as side characters to appear “progressive”; some creators expect praise and credits for doing the bare minimum of having characters of diverse backgrounds. Most of the main characters in The Owl House are canonically queer, which is actually much more common in real life compared to having one “gay best friend” in a heterosexual friend group, so common that many queer people have reported that they tend to “flock together” (Jernigan, C., & Mistree, B. F., 2009). As a result, queer people in the show have different personalities, ethnicities, interests, and style, subverting the stereotypes around the community and emphasising intersectionality.

It is also important to bring up the fact that the show educates young children about different sexualities and genders. Lilith Clawthorne is canonically aromantic and asexual, and Raine Whispers is non binary. These are parts of LGBTQ+ community that is often neglected when it comes to representation in media.

In addition, the show does not focus on how the characters face judgements for being queer, unlike most western media nowadays where nine out of ten times gay characters’ character arc revolves around the fact that they are queer. While the show addresses the struggles the main character, Luz, faces for being “different” or “weird”, she was never judged for being bisexual; a scene that I remember distinctly was that the “mean girl” or bully in the show, Boscha, had always mocked Luz for everything that she does, but never the fact that she is dating another girl, Amity, to which her only comment was “they are not that cute.” (Fun fact: Boscha has two moms.) Another scene I found worthy of note was when Amity’s mother, Odalia, said Luz was unfit for her daughter, and that she would find Amity “a new girlfriend”; even though Odalia is an overall insufferable person and had a questionable parenting style, she did not hold judgement for the fact that Amity is a lesbian. In most western media, typically teen dramas, the above examples would have been a perfect moment to introduce homophobia into the show, per usual; however, The Owl House chose not to and created a world of comfort for its audience. While characters still face many problems in their lives (spoiler alert: the world ending, and all that), being queer seems to be the norm, or at least as common as being cisgender and/or heterosexual in this world.

I believe that the kind of representation in The Owl House, where diversity is celebrated, is much more effective (compared to constantly emphasising on the negativity that queer people face) in educating the younger generation and allowing queer youth feel seen. Not only was diversity in sexuality shown in a sense that there are gay characters, but it was also shown within the community, educating its audience about the “Q+”. All in all, The Owl House did a great job in being truly inclusive of different sexualities and genders, and I can not wait to watch season 3 next year.

Works Cited

1. Adolescents and the media: medical and psychological impact. (1995). Choice Reviews Online, 33(02), 33–0735a. https://doi.org/10.5860/choice.33-0735a

2. Anderton, J. (2021, October 9). Owl House boss shares real reason why Disney cancelled the show. Digital Spy. Retrieved December 3, 2022, from https://www.digitalspy.com/tv/ustv/a37915254/owl-house-disney-cancellation-reason/

3. Disney Channel’s ‘The Owl House’ Gets Season 2 Order Ahead of Series Premiere (Exclusive). (2019, November 21). Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 4, 2022, from https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/tv/tv-news/disney-channels-owl-house-gets-early-season-2-order-1256811/

4. Jernigan, C., & Mistree, B. F. (2009). Gaydar: Facebook friendships expose sexual orientation. First Monday. https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v14i10.2611

5. Terrance, D. (Director). (2020, January 10). The Owl House. Disney.

The United States of Homophobia: Trump Administration Bars Visas for Same-Sex Couples

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