Condemns Uganda’s anti-LGBTQ law, which would impose the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”.


The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner on Wednesday urged Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to block an anti-LGBTQ law passed this week that offers harsh penalties, including death and life imprisonment.

“The passage of this discriminatory law – probably one of the worst of its kind in the world – is a deeply worrying development,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said in a statement.

Uganda’s lawmakers passed the law late Tuesday in a lengthy plenary session, during which last-minute changes were made to the legislation that initially included penalties of up to 10 years in prison for homosexual offences.

As approved by the legislature, the offense of “increased homosexuality” – a broad term to describe same-sex acts involving children or people with disabilities, serial offenders or people living with HIV – now carries the death penalty. Serious homosexuality applies in cases of sexual relations involving HIV-infected persons as well as minors.

Uganda Anti-LGBTQ Law
Kenyan gays and lesbians and others supporting their cause wear masks to maintain their anonymity during a rare protest against Uganda’s tough stance on homosexuality and in solidarity February 10, 2014 in front of the Uganda High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya organize with their counterparts .

Ben Curtis/AP

Under the bill, a suspect convicted of “attempted serious homosexuality” could be sentenced to 14 years in prison, and the offense of “attempted homosexuality” could be punished up to 10 years.

In Washington, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said if the law went into effect, the US would have to “take a look at” imposing economic sanctions on Uganda. He noted that this would be “really unfortunate” since most US aid comes in the form of health aid, particularly anti-AIDS aid.

The bill was introduced last month by an opposition lawmaker who said its aim was to punish “promotion, recruitment and funding” related to LGBTQ activity in this East African country, where homosexuals are widely vilified. The offense of “homosexuality” is punishable by life imprisonment, the same penalty prescribed by a colonial-era penal code that criminalized sexual acts “against the order of nature.”

The bill now goes to Museveni, who has 30 days to veto it or sign it into law. He hinted in a recent speech that he supports the legislation and accused unnamed Western nations of “imposing their practices on other people.”

The ambitious son of the Ugandan President
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni attends the state funeral of Kenya’s former President Daniel Arap Moi in Nairobi, Kenya, February 11, 2020.

John Muchucha/AP

“If signed by the president, lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Uganda will become criminals just for existing, for who they are,” Turk, the UN chief justice, said in the statement. “It could provide carte blanche for the systematic violation of almost all of their human rights and serve to turn people against each other.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday the United States has “serious concerns” about the law, adding that it would hamper tourism and economic investment and “damage Uganda’s reputation.”

Jean-Pierre added: “No one should be attacked, imprisoned or killed just because they are or who they love.”

The New York-based organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the new law as another violation of Ugandans’ basic human rights.

“This law just isn’t sustainable,” HRW Uganda and Tanzania researcher Oryem Nyeko told CBS news correspondent Debora Patta, as it “effectively criminalizes people just for being who they are and the law.” on privacy and freedom of expression continue to be violated and association, which are already compromised in Uganda.”

Nyeko noted that the bill also bans the “promotion of homosexuality” and effectively censors anyone who advocates for LGBTQ rights or provides financial support to organizations that do so. Persons associated with such organizations can face up to 20 years in prison.

One of the stricter provisions is that the legislation makes it a crime not to report someone suspected of involvement in same-sex conduct to the police.

“In fact, supportive family members or friends of LGBT people could be detained if they fail to report their loved ones to the authorities. If someone performs a same-sex marriage, they could be imprisoned for up to 10 years. If someone rented a room for a gay couple, they could go to prison for 10 years,” Nyeko said.

Anti-gay sentiment in Uganda has risen in recent weeks amid alleged reports of bestiality at boarding schools, including a prestigious boys’ boarding school where a parent accused a teacher of molesting her son. The authorities are investigating this case.

The Church of England’s recent decision to bless civil marriages for same-sex couples has also outraged many, including some who see homosexuality as imported from abroad.

Uganda’s LGBTQ community has faced growing pressure from civil authorities in recent years for a tough new law to punish same-sex activity.

The Ugandan agency, which oversees the work of NGOs, last year halted the activities of Sexual Minorities Uganda, the country’s most prominent LGBTQ organization, accusing it of failing to register legally. But the leader of the group said his organization was rejected by the registrar as undesirable.

Homosexuality is criminalized in more than 30 of Africa’s 54 countries.

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