Homosexual acts are already illegal in Uganda – but now a new law is making the situation even worse. This is popular in the country – but activists and international organizations are appalled.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has signed into law a law against homosexual acts, according to Parliament Speaker Anita Annet Among. According to consistent media reports, the Office of the President also confirmed the signing.
Accordingly, the death penalty applies to “serious homosexuality” – sexual relationships involving people infected with HIV. The same applies to sex with minors and other persons classified as vulnerable. “Attempted serious homosexuality” can be punished with up to 14 years in prison. People or groups who advocate for homosexual people, such as activist groups, can be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. The law is supported by many people in Uganda.
The first version of the law failed
Just over a month ago, Museveni returned a first version of the law to parliament. The President had expressed concerns that the law could be legally vulnerable. In its original version, it would also have criminalized homosexuals who voluntarily seek medical treatment. Parliament has now changed this aspect in a second variant of the law.
Speaker Among thanked members of parliament for not giving in to “all the pressure” exerted by bullies and conspiracy theorists.
Homosexual acts had previously been illegal in Uganda because of a colonial-era law. Violation was punishable by life imprisonment. Anti-gay sentiment in the country has increased in recent weeks after reports of homosexual intercourse taking place in boarding schools.
“Our people have to hide again”
The effects were felt even before the law was signed, said Ugandan LGBTQ activist Sam Ganafa. Hospitals turned away homosexuals because the facilities feared government harassment. “It’s sad news. Our people have to hide again,” Ganafa told the dpa news agency.
Various human rights organizations and activists have already announced that they will take legal action against the law. A similar parliamentary push for an anti-homosexuality law was overturned by the constitutional court in 2014.
Anti-AIDS organizations from the United Nations and the US warned of the “harmful impact” of the legislation on public health and the management of HIV. “Uganda’s progress in its response to HIV is now at serious risk,” UNAIDS, PEPFAR and the Global Fund wrote in a joint statement.