One of the strictest anti-gay laws in the world, imposed by Uganda, mandates life in jail for anyone found guilty of homosexuality. Yoweri Museveni, the president of Uganda, signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act on Monday amid strong opposition from several Western governments and human rights advocates.
In Uganda, a country in East Africa with a strong religious tradition, same-sex relationships were already prohibited. The new law, however, imposes tougher punishments on LGBTQ individuals. For “aggravated homosexuality,” which is defined as same-sex relationships involving HIV-positive individuals, children, or other vulnerable people, it calls for the death penalty. Anyone found guilty of “attempted aggravated homosexuality” faces a maximum 14-year sentence. Gay people in Uganda risk receiving a life sentence in jail, while those who seek same-sex relationships risk receiving a 10-year sentence.
President Biden described the recently passed law as “shameful” in a statement and hinted that it would affect relations between the United States and Uganda.
In order to safely deliver services under the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and other forms of aid and investments, he said, “I have directed my National Security Council to evaluate the implications of this law on all aspects of U.S. engagement with Uganda.” In Uganda, a new anti-gay law mandates life in jail for those found guilty. Human rights organizations and LGBTQ rights organizations in Uganda and around the world swiftly denounced the new law.
The UN Office for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights tweeted on Monday, “We are appalled that the draconian and discriminatory anti-gay bill is now law.” It is a prescription for routine abuses of the civil rights of LGBT individuals and other members of the public. It warrants immediate judicial review because it contravenes both the Constitution and international conventions.
Amnesty International is pushing for the law’s repeal, according to the organization’s regional researcher Roland Ebole. In Uganda, gay activists submitted a petition to the constitutional court late on Monday night against the new anti-homosexuality law.
The move was applauded by Parliamentary Speaker Anita Among, who said in a statement that the president had “answered the cries of our people” by signing the law. In the statement, it was stated, “With great humility, I thank my colleagues, the Members of Parliament, for withstanding all the pressure from bullies and doomsday conspiracy theorists for the sake of our country.”
The Ugandan parliament overwhelmingly approved a previous version of the measure in March. After Museveni vetoed it, it sparked opposition from businesses and the international community and was sent back for revisions. The revised, adopted version declares that simply identifying as LGBTQ is not illegal. Additionally, it changed a law that demanded that anyone engaging in homosexual conduct with a kid report it.
A prior anti-homosexuality law was approved by Uganda in 2014, however, it was overturned by the courts on procedural grounds as a result of protests in Uganda and from foreign funders. More than 30 of the 54 nations in Africa have laws against homosexuality.
Over the past few years, many members of the LGBTQ community have been compelled to leave Uganda due to the country’s pervasive anti-gay attitude and the possibility of jail. Others have gone into hiding as a result of the new law.
According to Frank Mugisha, the leader of the outlawed organization Sexual Minorities Uganda, the government needs to concentrate on resolving some of the country’s more serious socioeconomic issues rather than discriminating against LGBTQ persons. He suggested that they “target individuals who are directly committing gross human rights violations and undermining democracy.” “But there is also corruption and the violation of other human rights.”