2022 was the deadliest year for LGBTQ in a decade, and 2023 is already not too promising either. Uganda, Florida, and Italy are paving the way with new repressive legislation, suppressing gay rights and reversing previous progress.
On March 21, the Parliament in Uganda passed a new bill criminalizing the population identifying as LGBTQ, threatening them with life in prison or even the death penalty.
The bill is one of the most repressive legislations in Africa – or for that matter anywhere in the world.
Homosexual acts are already illegal, but the bill pushes the suppression of LGBTQ people even further.
In addition to making identifying as gay a criminal offence, friends, family and other community members are now legally obliged to report individuals in a same-sex relationship to the authorities.
Such an obligation is a death knell for democratic freedom and signals the end of human rights. Unsurprisingly, it has led to significant blackmailing spikes, with people receiving calls saying, “if you don’t give me money, I will report that you are gay”.
LGBTQ members are living in dangerous, life-threatening conditions.
Despite being very supported within the Parliament with a unanimous-but-two vote in favour, the bill has caused outrage amongst activist groups and governments of other nations.
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) March 22, 2023
Odoi Oywelowo, one of the two members of Parliament that voted against the bill said that the bill is “ill-conceived”, “unconstitutional”, and it “reverses the gains registered in the fight against gender-based violence”
Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s director for East and Southern Africa, had a similar view:
“This deeply repressive legislation will institutionalise discrimination, hatred, and prejudice against LGBTI people – including those who are perceived to be LGBTI – and block the legitimate work of civil society, public health professionals, and community leaders,”
As the bill sailed through the Parliament, it will now go to President Yoweri Museveni, who can either choose to veto the bill or sign it into law.
Vetoing the bill would mean preserving good relations with Western donors and investors who have already expressed their outrage over the bill.
The UK’s Africa Minister Andre Mithcell and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken have both condemned the bill. The White House warned Uganda of possible economic repressions if the President signs the bill.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that external pressure will be enough to bring Museveni to veto the bill.
Just last month, the President said that Uganda would not support LGBTQ people, accusing the West of forcing other countries to “normalise” what he called “deviations”.
He is thus likely to sign the bill into law, where “a person who commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality and is liable, on conviction, to “suffer death,” as per the legislation.
Although the USA has been making significant progress and facilitating the inclusion of LGBTQ individuals in society, the state of Florida plans to extend its “Don’t Say Gay” law, repressing freedom of speech in classrooms over LGBTQ matters.
The bill currently debated in the Florida State House would include new restrictions on what teachers can and cannot say in their classrooms about gender, sex, and sexual orientation.
If the Bill passes through the State House, it will become a statewide school policy to categorise sex as an “immutable biological trait” rather than an identity or preference. Students and teachers would have to use the pronouns assigned at birth.
Gender identity discussions have been banned until third grade under the “Don’t Say Gay” law enacted last year, but under the new bill, this measure would be extended to ninth grade, where students are 14 or 15 years old.
— Rep. Anna V. Eskamani 🔨 (@AnnaForFlorida) March 22, 2023
Experts say the bill is likely to pass, preventing students from speaking about their own gender identities, as well as those of their family members, friends, or even icons.
The supporters of the bill advocate for the control that it gives to the parents over the topics introduced to their children, as argued by Clay Yarborough, a Republican state Senator.
Despite yielding support in the House, the bill has received serious backlash from activist groups, citizens and even from the President of the United States, Joe Biden.
The American Civil Liberty Union of Florida criticised the bill, saying it was part of a “concerted effort to remove LGBTQ people from public life”.
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In a survey conducted by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, over half of the LGBTQ parents participating said they considered moving out of Florida because of the bill.
Biden has condemned the legislation, describing it as “cruel” and “close to sinful” during his appearance Monday night on “The Daily Show”.
This new bill would pave the way to further LGBTQ repressing reforms, as new bills blocking medical care, including puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and surgery for transgender youth are already being considered.
When Giorgia Meloni came into power as Italy’s Prime Minister, after leading a campaign based on a homophobic rhetoric, vocally opposing same-sex couples, backtracking in Italy’s LGBTQ legislation was expected.
The latest development occurred in Milan on March 14, when the Ministry of the Interior sent a letter to the centre-left mayor, Beppe Sala, to stop registering children of same-sex couples.
Children of same-sex couples conceived overseas through surrogacy, which is illegal in Italy, or through medically assisted reproduction only available to heterosexual couples, will no longer have both parents recorded on the city register.
Meloni has said that for a child to grow up well, they need a mother and a father, despite decades of research disproving this claim.
Milan’s mayor was informed of the move the same day that a Senate commission blocked an attempt to recognise birth certificates of the children of same-sex couples issued by other EU states.
Hundreds of people gathered in Mialn’s Piazza della Scala on the following Saturday to protest the government’s order.
— LGBT Marriage News (@LGBTMarriage) March 18, 2023
The Mayor has promised to fight the change, in support of the LGBTQ community.
The effect of such legislation is catastrophic. Only having one of the two parents recognised legally could leave children in serious jeopardy, as access to healthcare, inheritance, and child support becomes more limited.
From important life decisions such as authorising medical care to simple daily ones such as allowing their child to participate in class outings, only one partner is able to act as the parent. If the registered parent dies or the relationship ends, the other member of the couple would most likely lose custody of the child.
The move is a clear setback for LGBTQ rights and has again ignited the controversial debate as to how dangerous Meloni’s conservative government actually is.
Although the past couple of years have been marked by progress for LGBTQ rights, such as Switzerland approving gay marriage, the risk of backtracking those reforms would be extremely harmful to members of the LGBT community and their entourage.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Painting of the LGBT flag. Featured Photo Credit: Katie Rainbow