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Uganda passes bill making homosexuality punishable by death

Uganda passes bill making homosexuality punishable by death
Ugandan MP Musa Ecweru Photo: Screenshot/Reuters

On Tuesday, Uganda’s parliament passed a bill imposing the death penalty for homosexuality.

Homosexual sex was already punishable by life imprisonment under Ugandan law. The new bill, a revived version of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation that was nullified by the east African nation’s constitutional court in 2014, would make “aggravated homosexuality” a capital crime and imposes a life sentence for “recruitment, promotion and funding” of same-sex “activities,” The Guardian reports. According to Human Rights Watch, the proposed law is the first to make identifying as LGBTQ+ a crime.

The bill passed with overwhelming support. Only two of the Christian-majority nation’s 389 MPs voted against it. One legislator claimed that the penalties imposed by the bill did not go far enough, proposing an amendment that would make homosexuality punishable by castration.  

The bill now goes to President Yoweri Museveni, who has not said whether he supports the legislation. However, he has signed previous anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law.

In a recent speech, Museveni suggested that the new law also has his backing. “Homosexuals are deviations from the normal,” he said. “Why? Is it by nature or by nurture? We need to answer those questions. We need a medical opinion on that.”

“The bill is ill-conceived, it contains provisions that are unconstitutional, reverses the gains registered in the fight against gender-based violence, and criminalizes individuals instead of conduct that contravenes all known legal norms,” said Fox Odoi-Oywelowo, one of the two MPs who opposed the legislation. “The bill doesn’t introduce any value addition to the statute book and available legislative framework.”

Human rights activists also condemned the bill. “Today marks a tragic day in Uganda’s history,” Kampala-based lawyer Sarah Kasande tweeted. “@Parliament_Ug has passed legislation that promotes hatred and seeks to strip LGBTIQ individuals of their fundamental rights! The provisions of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill are barbaric, discriminatory and unconstitutional!”

Kasande vowed to fight the new law. “This is not the end, the Courts of law will have the final say! Uganda’s constitution shields individuals from discrimination or persecution based on their beliefs, values, or identity,” she tweeted on Tuesday.

Uganda is one of 30 African countries in which homosexuality is criminalized. According to The Guardian, more than 110 LGBTQ+ Ugandans, including a disproportionate number of transgender individuals, reported incidents including arrests, sexual violence, evictions and public undressing to advocacy group Sexual Minorities Uganda (Smug) in February.

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