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  • World - Africa
  • Updated: May 29, 2023

Uganda: President Museveni Signs Anti-Gay Bill

Uganda: President Museveni Signs Anti-Gay Bill

President of Uganda.

Uganda's president has signed into law a tough new anti-gay legislation supported by many in the East African country but widely condemned by rights activists and others abroad.

The measure approved by President Yoweri Museveni does not penalize LGBTQ people, which was a major worry for activists who saw an earlier form of the legislation as an atrocious assault on human rights.

However, the new law retains the death sentence for "aggravated homosexuality," which is defined as sexual encounters involving HIV-infected persons, adolescents, and other vulnerable people.

According to the law, a defendant convicted of "attempted aggravated homosexuality" faces up to 14 years in jail.

Parliamentary Speaker Anita Among stated in a statement that the president has "answered the cries of our people" by signing the law.

"With a lot of humility, I thank my colleagues the Members of Parliament for withstanding all the pressure from bullies and doomsday conspiracy theorists in the interest of our country," the statement said.

In April, Museveni returned the law to the national legislature, requesting modifications that would distinguish between identifying as LGBTQ and engaging in gay behaviours.

This infuriated several members, particularly those who believed the president would veto the bill in the face of foreign pressure.

Earlier in May, lawmakers approved a modified version of the measure.

In Uganda, homosexuality was already outlawed under colonial-era legislation that criminalized sexual behaviour "against the order of nature." The penalty for the offence is life in jail.

The United States has warned of economic ramifications for legislation labelled as "draconian and overly broad" by Amnesty International.

In a joint statement issued Monday, the leaders of the United Nations AIDS program, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the Global Fund stated that they "are deeply concerned about the harmful impact" of the law on public health and the HIV response.

"Uganda's progress on its HIV response is now in grave jeopardy," the statement stated. 

"The Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2023 will obstruct health education and outreach that can help to end AIDS as a public health threat."

According to the statement, "stigma and discrimination associated with the Act's passage have already resulted in reduced access to prevention and treatment services" for LGBTQ persons.

In Uganda, anti-gay sentiment has intensified in recent weeks as a result of press reports claiming sodomy at boarding schools, including one for boys where a mom accused a teacher of abusing her son.

The Church of England's national assembly decision in February to continue prohibiting church weddings for same-sex couples but allowing priests to bless same-sex marriages and civil partnerships infuriated many in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa.

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