Queer Voices

Frank Mugisha, Ugandan Gay Activist: If Anti-Gay Bill Passes, I'd Be 'Sentenced To Death'

“If the law is passed the way it is right now, I would go to jail, and I would be killed,” said Ugandan gay activist Frank Mugisha, speaking from Kampala last week, regarding the newly-revived bill known as the “kill the gays” bill, which could punish homosexuality, which is already illegal in Uganda, with life in prison or death. “The bill says anyone who commits the offense [and speaks out] against this legislation more than once is a serial offender. And the fact that I’ve already said in Uganda that I’m gay, and that I’m an advocate for LGBT rights, that means I’m promoting homosexuality in Uganda, according to this bill. This legislation, if passed into law, it would automatically make me a serial offender and I would be sentenced to death.” (Listen to the full interview below)

Mugisha disputes those in the government in Uganda, and those among antigay leaders in the U.S., who say the death penalty provision has been removed from the bill.

“This legislation is very draconian and there have been rumors that [the death penalty provision] was removed,” he said in an interview on my SiriusXM OutQ program, about the bill which the speaker of the parliament promised as a Christmas “gift” to the nation and could be voted on any day. “[But] the committee said they have completed their report, and the committee cannot change the legislation. What they can do is, they can only make recommendations in their report. So right now we are talking about legislation that has the death penalty. As of right now Parliament has never received any new or different or water-down legislation. Any recommendations [for revision] can be refused or accepted by parliament.”

Mugisha worries about his safety and that of all LGBT Ugandans, as well as their families and friends if the bill is passed. The law would subject even those who know LGBT people to arrest and imprisonment if they protect LGBT people in any way.

“I’m worried about my own safety but not as much as I’m worried about other LGBT people in Uganda,” he said. “I know people in Uganda who are going to suffer a lot of intimidation, blackmail and extortion, people who could be killed if this legislation is passed. Once the legislation is passed the Ugandan public is going to become very hostile toward LGBT people, and my face, being very openly gay -- in Uganda, people know where I live. They know where I hang out. People know my whereabouts, so I become an easy target for any kind of violence.”

Though some U.S. LGBT activists have called upon the Obama administration to make public statements and take stronger public action, Mugisha believes the U.S. is applying a lot of pressure.

“I’m very confident that the U.S. government and other governments are doing everything possible to see that this legislation doesn’t pass,” he said. “And I’d like to assure people in the U.S. that the American government is doing all they can to talk with my government.”

But Mugisha implored people to keep up the pressure.

“We need petitions signed,” he said. “We need letters written to members of parliament. We need peaceful demonstrations at our diplomatic missions. We need people engaging with all Ugandans.”

Listen to the full interview here: