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Death Penalty For 'Aggravated Homosexuality': What Uganda's Anti-Gay Law Says

The newly enacted law has been labelled as one of the most draconian anti-gay legislations in the world.

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Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Monday, 29 May, signed into law a set of stringent measures targeting the LGBTQIA+ community in the country.

The newly enacted law has been labelled as one of the most draconian anti-gay legislations in the world, as violators may be awarded harsh penalties, including death penalty for 'aggravated homosexuality' and life imprisonment for gay sex.

The Ugandan Parliament passed a new draft of the legislation earlier this month. In the previous version of the legislation, which was passed in March, the mere act of identifying as LGBTQIA+ was criminalised.

While this provision has now been removed, "engaging in acts of homosexuality" would be an offence punishable with life imprisonment, and repeat offenders could potentially face the death penalty.

Here's all you need to know about the new legislation:

Death Penalty For 'Aggravated Homosexuality': What Uganda's Anti-Gay Law Says

  1. 1. What Is the New Law?

    The Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023, passed in March, was a more regressive version of similar legislation passed by the Ugandan Parliament in December 2013 and signed into law by President Museveni in February 2014.

    Dubbed 'Kill the Gays Bill', the 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Bill also proposed the death penalty for persons engaging in same-sex relationships.

    The penalty, however, was later amended to life in prison. In August of the same year, the Constitutional Court of Uganda ruled the Act invalid on procedural grounds.

    According to the Ugandan Parliament website, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill sought to broaden the range of same-sex conduct that can be punished, as it was believed to pose a threat to the traditional and religious values of Uganda.

    While more than 30 African countries, including Uganda, already prohibit same-sex relationships, Human Rights Watch reported that no other country penalised an individual for merely identifying as LGBTQIA+.

    The law passed in March, however, was returned by President Museveni with revisions to five clauses. One of his suggestions was that those who identify as gay should not be punished unless they "engage in acts of homosexuality."

    The president also suggested removing the death penalty clause for 'aggravated homosexuality'.

    The Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs reviewed the concerns and proposals made by the president, and while it agreed not to criminalise those who merely identify as gay, it chose to retain the death penalty clause.

    What Is Punishable Under the Law?

    The 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Bill introduces the 'aggravated homosexuality' provision, calling for the death penalty in certain circumstances, including for "serial offenders," for those having same-sex relations with people under 18 years of age and persons with disabilities, or for those who are HIV positive.

    This also means that disabled people would be denied the capacity to consent.

    Moreover, the bill makes it illegal to promote homosexuality, creating a system of complete censorship of LGBTQIA+ issues. Those advocating for LGBTQIA+ rights or providing financial support for such organisations could face up to 20 years in prison.

    It further criminalises any failure to report someone suspected of participating in same-sex acts to the police, putting supportive family members and friends at risk of imprisonment.

    Additionally, conducting a same-sex marriage ceremony or providing accommodations that facilitate same-sex conduct is also criminalised, with violators facing up to 10 years in prison.

    Expand
  2. 2. What Have World Leaders Said?

    Activists and world leaders are concerned that the new law would trigger a witch hunt of LGBTQIA+ persons, in addition to physical and online attacks, arbitrary arrests, and false convictions.

    United States President Joe Biden, in a statement on Monday, said: "The enactment of Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Act is a tragic violation of universal human rights – one that is not worthy of the Ugandan people, and one that jeopardizes the prospects of critical economic growth for the entire country."

    He added that "no one should have to live in constant fear for their life or being subjected to violence and discrimination. It is wrong."

    US Secretary of State Antony Blinken added that the US would consider visa restrictions against Ugandan officials and others over the newly enacted law.

    Andrew Mitchell, the United Kingdom's Minister in the Foreign Office Department, said in a statement:

    "This legislation undermines the protections and freedoms of all Ugandans enshrined in the Ugandan Constitution. It will increase the risk of violence, discrimination, and persecution, will set back the fight against HIV/AIDs, and will damage Uganda's international reputation."

    When the law was first passed in March, Convening for Equality, an LGBTQ group, had said that "the systemic violation of human rights would become legalised and institutionalised in Uganda" with the enforcement of the law.

    Co-convener of the group and prominent Ugandan activist Frank Mugisha had said, "The Bill will deny gender and sexual minorities access to basic social services like shelter, healthcare, education, food as mandated by the constitution, because all the service providers for these have a legal duty to report gender and sexual minorities..."

    Activists had also claimed that this law would open doors to more conservative legislations in the name of traditional values.

    Amnesty International had termed the bill "appalling", "ambiguous" and "vaguely worded."

    "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," Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International's director for East and Southern Africa, had said in March.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What Is the New Law?

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023, passed in March, was a more regressive version of similar legislation passed by the Ugandan Parliament in December 2013 and signed into law by President Museveni in February 2014.

Dubbed 'Kill the Gays Bill', the 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Bill also proposed the death penalty for persons engaging in same-sex relationships.

The penalty, however, was later amended to life in prison. In August of the same year, the Constitutional Court of Uganda ruled the Act invalid on procedural grounds.

According to the Ugandan Parliament website, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill sought to broaden the range of same-sex conduct that can be punished, as it was believed to pose a threat to the traditional and religious values of Uganda.

While more than 30 African countries, including Uganda, already prohibit same-sex relationships, Human Rights Watch reported that no other country penalised an individual for merely identifying as LGBTQIA+.

The law passed in March, however, was returned by President Museveni with revisions to five clauses. One of his suggestions was that those who identify as gay should not be punished unless they "engage in acts of homosexuality."

The president also suggested removing the death penalty clause for 'aggravated homosexuality'.

The Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs reviewed the concerns and proposals made by the president, and while it agreed not to criminalise those who merely identify as gay, it chose to retain the death penalty clause.

What Is Punishable Under the Law?

The 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Bill introduces the 'aggravated homosexuality' provision, calling for the death penalty in certain circumstances, including for "serial offenders," for those having same-sex relations with people under 18 years of age and persons with disabilities, or for those who are HIV positive.

This also means that disabled people would be denied the capacity to consent.

Moreover, the bill makes it illegal to promote homosexuality, creating a system of complete censorship of LGBTQIA+ issues. Those advocating for LGBTQIA+ rights or providing financial support for such organisations could face up to 20 years in prison.

It further criminalises any failure to report someone suspected of participating in same-sex acts to the police, putting supportive family members and friends at risk of imprisonment.

Additionally, conducting a same-sex marriage ceremony or providing accommodations that facilitate same-sex conduct is also criminalised, with violators facing up to 10 years in prison.

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What Have World Leaders Said?

Activists and world leaders are concerned that the new law would trigger a witch hunt of LGBTQIA+ persons, in addition to physical and online attacks, arbitrary arrests, and false convictions.

United States President Joe Biden, in a statement on Monday, said: "The enactment of Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Act is a tragic violation of universal human rights – one that is not worthy of the Ugandan people, and one that jeopardizes the prospects of critical economic growth for the entire country."

He added that "no one should have to live in constant fear for their life or being subjected to violence and discrimination. It is wrong."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken added that the US would consider visa restrictions against Ugandan officials and others over the newly enacted law.

Andrew Mitchell, the United Kingdom's Minister in the Foreign Office Department, said in a statement:

"This legislation undermines the protections and freedoms of all Ugandans enshrined in the Ugandan Constitution. It will increase the risk of violence, discrimination, and persecution, will set back the fight against HIV/AIDs, and will damage Uganda's international reputation."

When the law was first passed in March, Convening for Equality, an LGBTQ group, had said that "the systemic violation of human rights would become legalised and institutionalised in Uganda" with the enforcement of the law.

Co-convener of the group and prominent Ugandan activist Frank Mugisha had said, "The Bill will deny gender and sexual minorities access to basic social services like shelter, healthcare, education, food as mandated by the constitution, because all the service providers for these have a legal duty to report gender and sexual minorities..."

Activists had also claimed that this law would open doors to more conservative legislations in the name of traditional values.

Amnesty International had termed the bill "appalling", "ambiguous" and "vaguely worded."

"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," Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International's director for East and Southern Africa, had said in March.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  LGBTQ   Homosexuality   Uganda 

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