Business News/ News / World/  This country has allowed death penalty, life imprisonment for gay couples

Uganda’s parliament has passed a new anti-gay legislation on Tuesday, which proposes harsh new penalties for same-sex relationships. The bill passed amid a highly charged and chaotic session. Parliamentary speaker Annet Anita Among confirmed the final vote, saying that the “bill passed in record time."

All but one member of parliament spoke against the bill and significant portions of the original draft law were amended. Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, and it is not immediately clear what new penalties have been agreed upon.

However, according to MP Fox Odoi-Oywelowo, offenders will face life imprisonment or even the death penalty for "aggravated" offenses under the final version of the legislation.

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President Yoweri Museveni can choose to veto or sign the bill into law. Nevertheless, the 78-year-old leader has consistently signalled that he does not view the issue as a priority and would prefer to maintain good relations with Western donors and investors.

The legislation enjoys broad public support in Uganda, and civil society’s reaction has been muted, following years of erosion of civic space under Museveni's increasingly authoritarian rule.

The discussion about the bill in parliament was laced with homophobic rhetoric, with lawmakers conflating child sexual abuse with consensual same-sex activity between adults. In recent months, conspiracy theories accusing shadowy international forces of promoting homosexuality have gained traction on social media in Uganda.

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Museveni referred to gay people as “deviants" last week, questioning whether it is by nature or nurture, and suggesting a need for medical opinion. Ugandan attorney general Kiryowa Kiwanuka told the parliamentary committee scrutinising the bill on Saturday that existing colonial-era laws "adequately provided for an offense".

Kristof Titeca, an expert on East African affairs at the University of Antwerp, said that "Museveni has historically taken into account the damage of the bill to Uganda's geopolitics, particularly in terms of relations with the West, and in terms of donor funding," suggesting that the delay in decision-making is a political tactic.

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Homosexuality laws in Uganda

Uganda is notorious for intolerance of homosexuality, which was criminalized under colonial-era laws. In 2014, lawmakers passed a bill that called for life in prison for people caught having gay sex.

The legislation sparked international condemnation, with some Western nations freezing or redirecting millions of dollars of government aid in response, before a court later struck down the law on a technicality. 

Sexual Minorities Uganda, a leading gay rights organisation, has already reported receiving an inundation of calls from LGBTQ people over the new bill, with community members living in fear.

(With AFP inputs)

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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Updated: 22 Mar 2023, 12:00 PM IST
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