Uganda passes bill that would criminalize identifying as LGBTQ and make certain crimes punishable by death

(CNN) — Ugandan lawmakers on Tuesday passed some of the world’s toughest anti-gay laws, making certain crimes punishable by death and up to 20 years in prison for people who identify as LGBTQ+.

The new law creates a new crackdown on LGBTQ+ people, in a country where same-sex relationships are already illegal and punishable by life in prison. It is directed against a wide range of activities, including promoting and inciting homosexuality and conspiring to engage in homosexuality, according to Reuters.

Under the bill, the death penalty could be imposed in cases of “aggravated homosexuality”, a broad term used in the law to describe sexual acts committed against children, mentally or physically disabled persons, without consent or under duress, by a “series”. delinquent” or engaging in a relationship.

The amendments, introduced by the head of parliamentary and legal affairs, Robina Ruagujo, would “provide the death penalty for anyone who commits the aggravated crime of homosexuality.”

Opposition lawmaker Asuman Basalirwa introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023 in Parliament, which he said “aims to protect our church culture; the legal, religious and traditional family values ​​of Ugandans from sexual misconduct in this country”.

“The purpose of this bill is to establish a comprehensive and improved law to protect traditional family values, our multiculturalism, our beliefs, prohibition of same-sex relationships and promotion or recognition of same-sex sexual relations,” Pasalirwa said on Tuesday.

Bugiri Township Member of Parliament Asuman Basalirwa addresses the camera during a debate on the anti-homosexuality bill in Parliament on March 21, 2023 in Kampala, Uganda. (Credit: Abubakar Lubova/Reuters)

Lawmaker Fox Odoi-Oywelowo spoke out against the bill, saying it “unreasonably restricts the fundamental rights of LGBTQ+ people” and is “contrary to established international and regional human rights standards”.

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned earlier this month that the law would violate the rights of Ugandans.

“One of the most serious aspects of this new bill is that it simply criminalizes people, further violating the rights to privacy and freedom of expression and association that are already compromised in Uganda.” Oryem Nyeko, researcher at HRW in Uganda, told the country’s politicians to “stop targeting LGBT people for political capital” in a statement.

The bill is expected to go to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni for assent. Museveni last week mocked gays as “deviant”.

Anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment runs deep in this highly conservative and religious East African country.

Uganda made headlines in 2009 when it introduced an anti-homosexuality bill that included the death penalty for same-sex relationships.

The country’s lawmakers passed a bill in 2014 but replaced the death penalty with a proposed life sentence. That law was eventually repealed.

— CNN’s Hannah Ritchie contributed reporting.

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