In a surprising development, Uganda’s president has signed into law ensuring brutal punishment for LGBTQ people. According to the law, same-sex people will face tough measures including death and life-imprisonment sentences-- a legislation supported by many in this East African country but widely condemned by rights activists and others abroad.
The version of the bill signed by President Yoweri Museveni doesn’t criminalize those who identify as LGBTQ, a key concern for campaigners who condemned an earlier draft of the legislation as an egregious attack on human rights.
But the new law still prescribes the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” which is defined as cases of sexual relations involving people infected with HIV as well as with minors and other categories of vulnerable people.
A suspect convicted of “attempted aggravated homosexuality” can be imprisoned for up to 14 years, according to the legislation. Parliamentary Speaker Anita Among said in a statement that the president had “answered the cries of our people” in signing the bill.
“With a lot of humility, I thank my colleagues the Members of Parliament for withstanding all the pressure from bullies and doomsday conspiracy theorists in the interest of our country,” the statement said.
Museveni had returned the bill to the national assembly in April, asking for changes that would differentiate between identifying as LGBTQ and actually engaging in homosexual acts. That angered some lawmakers, including some who feared the president would proceed to veto the bill amid international pressure. Lawmakers passed an amended version of the bill earlier in May.
Africans see same-sex as behaviour imported from abroad
It is worth noting that homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda under a colonial-era law criminalizing sexual activity “against the order of nature.” The punishment for that offence is life imprisonment.
The US has warned of economic consequences over legislation described by Amnesty International as “draconian and overly broad.”
Anti-gay sentiment in Uganda has grown in recent weeks amid news coverage alleging sodomy in boarding schools, including a prestigious one for boys where a parent accused a teacher of abusing her son.
The February decision of the Church of England’s national assembly to continue banning church weddings for same-sex couples while allowing priests to bless same-sex marriages and civil partnerships inflamed many in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa. Homosexuality is criminalized in more than 30 of Africa’s 54 countries. Some Africans see it as behaviour imported from abroad and not a sexual orientation.