President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has signed into law new anti-gay legislation. Same-sex relations were already illegal in Uganda, a religiously conservative East African nation. Many people in the East African nation support this legislation, but human rights advocates and others overseas strongly oppose it. The President Yoweri Museveni-signed version of the bill does not criminalize LGBTQ people, which was a major issue for activists who criticized an earlier form of the legislation as a flagrant violation of human rights. However, the new law continues to call for the death penalty in cases of “aggravated homosexuality,” which is defined as sex acts involving HIV-positive individuals, adolescents, and other vulnerable groups of people. It is still among the harshest anti-LGBTQ laws in the world.
According to Ugandan law, a defendant who is found guilty of “attempted aggravated homosexuality” may spend up to 14 years behind bars. The law says having gay intercourse with a minor or being afflicted with a sickness that will last a lifetime, such as HIV, are considered “aggravated cases” and carry the death penalty.
The US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar), UNAids, and the Global Fund issued a joint statement. It said they were deeply concerned about the “harmful impact of the “legislation.” “Uganda’s progress on its HIV response is now in grave jeopardy,” the statement said. US President Joe Biden called the law’s passage a “tragic violation of universal human rights,” pleading with Uganda to abolish it.
Mr. Biden also said Washington was 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”. Ugandan campaign groups have also condemned the legislation. They have instituted court action to annul the legislation on the grounds that it is discriminatory and violates the rights of LGBTQ+ people.
A similar law was struck down by Uganda’s constitutional court in 2014. Ugandan lawmaker Asuman Basalirwa, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s sponsor, told the BBC, “It does not bother anybody if two adults are engaged in gay sex in private. And even then, the law does not look for those who are doing their things in private. But once you seek to do it in public and then you are recruiting others to do things your way, that’s where the problem is.” she added.
The bill was passed in parliament earlier this month, with only one MP opposing it. The US is a major trading partner with Uganda. The US, UNAids, and The Global Fund have played a major role in backing Uganda’s long-standing efforts to curb HIV/Aids.