PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — More than 200 protesters in South Africa have demonstrated at the Uganda High Commission against the anti-gay bill recently passed by Ugandan lawmakers.
The demonstration on Tuesday was led by South Africa’s leftist Economic Freedom Fighters opposition party, which urged Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni not to sign the bill into law.
LGBTQ activists also joined the march and called on the South African government to speak out against the bill as it threatens the freedoms and safety of the LGBTQ community in Uganda.
Homosexuality is outlawed in Uganda but the recent bill has introduced harsh punishment for several acts, including the death penalty and up to 20 years imprisonment.
Almost all lawmakers of the 389 who attended the parliamentary session voted in favor of the bill, but Museveni has the powers to veto the bill and not sign it into law.
Some of the punishments introduced by the bill include the death penalty for the offence of “aggravated homosexuality,” which is defined as cases of sexual relations involving those infected with HIV, minors and other categories of vulnerable people.
Those who advocate for or promote the rights of LGBTQ people may face up to 20 years in jail, according to the legislation.
Ugandan queer activist Papa De told The Associated Press in South Africa Tuesday that they took part in the protest to speak on behalf of their siblings back home who face arrest if they speak out against the bill.
“They are preaching hate crimes and genocide against our queer bodies, but we are human first. So, yes, I am scared because my family is still back in Uganda,” said De.
While they had been outspoken against the bill, they still feared that there could be repercussions for their own safety.
Economic Freedom Front leader Julius Malema issued a warning against the Ugandan lawmakers who passed the bill, saying Museveni would in future use it against them if they disagreed with him politically.
“We are saying to Museveni, leave the people the way they are. It is not our problem, it is not your problem. It is not a problem,” said Malema to the protesters in front of the Ugandan High Commission .
“If Museveni knows what is good for him, he will not sign it (bill) into law. Already we have a problem with Museveni with how he is treating political opponents in Uganda,” said Malema in front of the Uganda High Commission.
The passing of the Ugandan bill has received widespread condemnation from the international community and those promoting the rights of LGBTQ people in Uganda and across the continent.
The U.S. has threatened to impose economic sanctions on Uganda if the bill is signed into law while the U.N. AIDS agency has warned that the legislation would hurt efforts to fight HIV.