Uganda Enacts ‘Anti-Homosexuality Act,’ With Death Penalty in Some Cases

Mimi Nguyen Ly
By Mimi Nguyen Ly
May 30, 2023Africa
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Uganda has passed a new law that adds the death penalty as punishment for certain cases of practicing homosexuality, including acts that involve rape, incest, and spreading HIV/AIDS.

On May 29, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni enacted the 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Act, which Western critics are calling one of the world’s toughest anti-gay laws. Homosexuality was already banned in the East African nation  under its 1950 Penal Code Act.

Including Uganda, where its colonial-era law makes sexual activity “against the order of nature” a criminal act, more than 30 of Africa’s 54 countries already had laws criminalizing homosexuality.

The new Ugandan legislation imposes imprisonment for promoting homosexuality and the death penalty in some cases, among multiple other provisions.

Uganda’s State House shared a photo on Twitter of Museveni signing the legislation. The 78-year-old president has previously called homosexuality a “deviation from normal” and urged lawmakers to resist “imperialist” pressure.

‘Aggravated Homosexuality’

The new law imposes the death penalty for what it calls “aggravated homosexuality,” which applies in multiple circumstances, including same-sex relations with a minor or a relative or dependent of the person.

It also includes cases when the offender is a “serial offender,” which the law defines as “a person who has previous convictions for the offence of homosexuality or related offences.”

“Aggravated homosexuality” also applies where a person committing an act of homosexuality infects another person with a terminal illness, such as HIV/AIDS. It also applies to a person committing an act of homosexuality on another person who subsequently suffers a disability or mental illness as a result. In such cases, the person committing such acts would face the death penalty.

The death penalty would also apply when the sexual act is committed against another person “by means of threats, force, fear of bodily harm, duress or undue influence, intimidation of any kind, or through misrepresentation as to the nature of the act.”

Lastly, the death penalty applies when same-sex relations involve a person in a more vulnerable position. Per the law, this means the sexual act is being committed against those who are under the authority of the other person or against a person with a disability, mental illness, advanced age, or in a state of “unconsciousness or … an altered state of consciousness … that impaired his or her judgment.”

For all of the above, the law states that consent to a sexual act “shall not constitute a defence.”

If a person is convicted of “attempted aggravated homosexuality,” they face a prison term of up to 14 years.

Promoting Homosexuality

The new law has a section that penalizes the “promotion of homosexuality” for up to 20 years in prison. In the case of a legal entity that’s found guilty, it faces a potential fine, as well as a suspension of its license to operate for 10 years or a complete cancellation of the license.

A person is found to promote homosexuality if they encourage or persuade another person to engage in homosexuality or provide financial support that encourages or normalizes the act.

They’re also found guilty if they knowingly publish or broadcast material that promotes homosexuality or operate an organization that promotes homosexuality.

And lastly, if someone “knowingly leases or subleases, uses or allows another person to use” any house, building, or establishment for the purpose of engaging in homosexuality or activities that encourage such acts, they’ll also be found guilty.

‘Sanctity of Family’

“We have heeded the concerns [of] our people and legislated to protect the sanctity of family,” Anita Annet Among, the speaker of Uganda’s parliament, said in a statement.

“We have stood strong to defend the culture, values, and aspirations of our people,” she said in her statement, thanking the Ugandan president for “his steadfast action in the interest of Ugandans” and thanking her fellow colleagues for “withstanding all the pressure, in the interest of our Country.”

“By their action, we have lived by our motto: For God and our Country.

“We shall always stand for and promote the interests of the people of Uganda … the people of Uganda have spoken, and it is your duty now to enforce the law in a fair, steadfast, and firm manner.”

Revision

The legislation was approved by Uganda’s parliament in March. That version proposed up to 20 years of prison time for those who identify as LGBT.

But Museveni sent the measure back to parliament in late April to be revised, seeking changes that would differentiate between identifying as LGBT and actually engaging in homosexual acts. He said legislators should ensure the law doesn’t “frighten” the people who need “rehabilitation.”

The law was later amended and sent to Museveni’s office in May.

US Considering Sanctions

Activists and human rights organizations say the new legislation is unnecessary in a country where homosexuality has long been illegal.

U.S. President Joe Biden called the legislation “a tragic violation of universal human rights” and called for its immediate repeal.

“We are considering additional steps, including the application of sanctions and restriction of entry into the United States against anyone involved in serious human rights abuses or corruption,” he said in a statement.

The U.N. Human Rights Office, in a statement, described the legislation as “a recipe for systematic violations of the rights of LGBT people & the wider population.”

“It conflicts with the Constitution and international treaties and requires urgent judicial review,” the office stated.

In a joint statement, the leaders of the U.N. AIDS program, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the Global Fund said they’re “deeply concerned about the harmful impact” of the legislation on public health and the HIV response.

Mélanie Jolly, Canada’s foreign minister, called the new Ugandan law “abhorrent, cruel, and unjust.”

“No one should live in fear or be persecuted for who they are and who they love. We stand with the LGBQTQ+ community in pushing back against the rising crackdown on their human rights.”

Opposition to Death Penalty

Andrew Mitchell, the UK’s minister for development and Africa, said in a statement that the UK is “firmly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances.” He didn’t directly address the circumstances of capital punishment in the Ugandan law.

“This legislation undermines the protections and freedoms of all Ugandans enshrined in the Ugandan Constitution,” he said. “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.”

Norway’s leadership “stands firmly against the use of capital punishment at all times and under any circumstances,” according to Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeld. She also didn’t address the death penalty aspect of the law.

“This law will threaten human rights & increases persecution and discrimination of all Ugandans,” she said.

Kenyan Lawmaker Congratulates Uganda

At least one official from an African nation signaled support for Uganda’s law. George Kaluma, a Kenyan member of parliament, took to Twitter to congratulate the Ugandan president.

“Wow! What a leader we’ve in Africa! Congratulations Uganda! Kenya is following you in this endeavour to save humanity … Perversion is treated, not normalized!” Kaluma wrote.

Uganda previously passed an anti-homosexuality law in 2014, but a panel of judges nullified it on procedural grounds—they cited a lack of quorum in the plenary session that had approved that particular measure.

Any legal challenge this time is likely to be heard on the merits rather than on technical issues.

A group of rights activists and academics on May 29 petitioned the constitutional court for an injunction against the enforcement of the new law.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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