A protest in London against an earlier homophobic law in Uganda in 2018 (Picture: Alisdare Hickson/Flickr)
Socialist Workers League categorically condemns the signing of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023, into law. This reflects the growing violation of sexual and gender minorities’ rights in Africa.
The law marks the peak of a series of laws that the Ugandan government has put in place to criminalise same-sex relationships over the last ten years. And with each step, the legalised persecution of LGBTQ people gets harsher. The country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014 prohibited same-sex sexual relations. In its original draft as a bill, it had clauses that prescribed the death penalty. The Ugandan government dropped these clauses in the wake of a global outcry. The country’s Constitutional Court subsequently upturned the Act on the technical grounds that it was passed without a parliamentary quorum.
The 2023 Act gravely restricts LGBTQ people’s rights and freedoms, prescribes life imprisonment for same-sex sexual relations, and re-introduces the death penalty into homophobic legislation, ostensibly for “aggravated homosexuality.” These are unacceptable measures for us as socialists and must be so for anyone, group, or movement genuinely committed to the struggle for freedom and social progress. We must take a clear stand against this fascistic legislation and demand its abrogation.
We are concerned that, unfortunately, many groups on the left appear to give tacit support to the wave of homophobia on the continent. This is reflected in the loud silence of trade unions and socialist parties on the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act. We salute the few radical and revolutionary groups that have come out boldly against this law, even when it was a Bill, as well as similar steps being taken in countries such as Kenya and Ghana to push through even more draconian anti-gay legislative reviews.
The claim that homophobic legislation is in any way anti-imperialist is utterly false. Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, and much of Africa saw the earliest anti-LGBTQ laws introduced by the colonial governments of the 19th century. Also, Western Evangelicals have funded and encouraged homophobia in Africa over the past decade.
It is not accidental that governments and politicians are jumping over themselves to pass anti-LGBTQ laws in the current period, as in the wake of the global financial crisis. They are using these as popular diversions from their failures and the failure of the system they represent to address the social and economic crises of the day.
The Western governments who shout themselves hoarse in defence of LGBTQ rights are no less hypocritical. They present their stand based on respect for democracy and some supposedly liberal Western values. But the colonial period laws laid the basis for homophobic laws in the ex-colonies of Britain. And homosexuality was illegal in most European and North American countries till as recently as the mid-20th century. The ruling class did not benevolently grant LGBTQ rights anywhere. LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ socialists and activists fought together to gain these fundamental human rights to love freely.
History beckons again to radical and revolutionary forces, this time in Africa. We must unite and fight against the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 and all other anti-LGBTQ legislation across the country. We must unite and fight against homophobia and bigotry in our ranks and the broader society. We must dare to struggle for the full realisation of sexual and gender minority rights for the struggle to win working people’s democracy to have any meaning. An injury to one is an injury to all.
Frances Akinjole, National Chairpersonand Mobolaji Otuyelu, National Secretary