The United Nations and the United States on Wednesday added to international outrage over a hardline bill passed by Ugandan lawmakers that criminalize simply identifying as LGBTQ+, prescribes a life sentence for convicted homosexuals and a death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.”
The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights asked Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni not to sign the bill passed by lawmakers on Tuesday. Volker Türk called the Anti Homosexuality Bill 2023 “draconian,” saying it would have negative repercussions on society as a whole and violates the nation’s constitution.
“The passing of this discriminatory bill – probably among the worst of its kind in the world – is a deeply troubling development,” said a statement from Türk’s office.
“If signed into law by the President, it will render lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in Uganda criminals simply for existing, for being who they are. It could provide carte blanche for the systematic violation of nearly all of their human rights and serve to incite people against each other.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken slammed the bill, which would “undermine fundamental human rights of all Ugandans and could reverse gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” he tweeted on Wednesday. “We urge the Ugandan Government to strongly reconsider the implementation of this legislation.”
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield spoke twice this week with Museveni to express “deep concern” about the legislation, a US official told CNN Wednesday.
The new legislation constitutes a further crackdown on LGBTQ+ people in a country where same-sex relations were already illegal – punishable by life imprisonment. It targets an array of activities and includes a ban on promoting and abetting homosexuality as well as conspiracy to engage in homosexuality.
According to the bill, the death penalty can be invoked for cases involving “aggravated homosexuality” – a broad term used in the legislation to describe sex acts committed without consent or under duress, against children, people with mental or physical disabilities, by a “serial offender,” or involving incest.
The bill must now go to Museveni for assent. Last week he derided homosexuals as “deviants.”
Uganda made headlines in 2009 when it introduced an anti-homosexuality bill that included a death sentence for gay sex.
The country’s lawmakers passed a bill in 2014, but they replaced the death penalty clause with a proposal for life in prison. That law was ultimately struck down.