Legislative treatment of homosexual citizens of Uganda was variously categorised as vitriolic homophobia by the international LGBTIQ movement and human rights advocates. Extreme proposed penalties (including death, extradition and life imprisonment) contained in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (2009), which was amended and then passed as the Anti-Homosexuality Act (2014), sought to institutionalise State-inspired homophobia through legislation. Scholarship of the legal regime governing non-heteronormative sexualities in Uganda narrowly focuses on interpreting the law and its implications on individual homosexuals. Less analytical attention is focused on diverse appropriations of power and powerlessness by varied actors within the societal, national and international contexts in which this law was negotiated.
Based on triangulation of ethnographic fieldwork conducted by an anthropologist and social justice activism by a legal scholar, this article critically analyses the social and political dynamics of the deeply polarised recriminalisation of homosexuality to move and sway diverse citizenry within and outside of Uganda. After discussing the contents, context and historical developments of the anti-homosexuality laws, as well as the constitutional petition that led to its annulment, we analyse the attendant contestations and debates within Parliament, the executive, judiciary and society. The varied, contradictory and opposing standpoints towards recriminalising homosexuality highlight the practical impossibility of generalising any social unit within Uganda as homogenously homophobic or universally opposed to same-sex practices. While proponents of anti-homosexuality legislation mobilised their position to sway candidates to give them votes during elections, opponents of the law built their social-political acumen as defenders of minority human rights, and stewards of good governance in the country. This legislative process was appropriated for political expediency by diverse actors. In conclusion, we assert that the anti-homosexuality law became a paradoxical symbol for nationalism, sovereignty, economic autonomy, Africanness, traditional culture, Christian conservatism, progressiveness, propriety, defiant sexualities, foreign intervention, and neo-imperialism.