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‘Deeply disturbing’: UN chief justice on Uganda’s anti-gay law

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) – The United Nations human rights envoy is calling on Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to block an anti-LGBTQ law that introduces harsh penalties for some homosexual offences, 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 on Wednesday.

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.

In the version passed by the legislature, the offense of “increased homosexuality” is now punishable by death. Aggravated homosexuality applies in cases of sexual relations involving persons infected with HIV, as well as minors and other categories of vulnerable people.

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.

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 law 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 bill now goes to Museveni, who can 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.”

“If the law is signed by the president, lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Uganda will become criminals simply because they exist and are 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.”

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 upset 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. However, the head of the group stated that his organization had been rejected by the commercial register as undesirable.

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

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC.

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