Uganda’s parliament has passed an amended version of a controversial anti-LGBT+ law that had drawn widespread criticism from NGOs and Western governments. The new version of the law, which still includes harsh penalties for same-sex relationships and the “promotion” of homosexuality, clarifies that “being homosexual” is not a crime, but only sexual relations are.
The legislation maintains a penalty of life imprisonment for “acts of homosexuality” and keeps “aggravated homosexuality” as a capital offence.
Repeat offenders can face the death penalty, though it has not been used in Uganda for years. A provision on the “promotion” of homosexuality means that individuals or organizations who “knowingly promote homosexuality” could face 20 years in prison or a ten-year ban, respectively.
Parliamentarians also amended a provision on “the duty to report acts of homosexuality,” which is now limited to suspected sexual offences against children and vulnerable people.
Gay rights organizations are concerned about the new law, which they claim creates a contradiction: the legislation allows people to be gay, but forbids them from talking about it. Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, is worried that the amended version puts LGBTQ people in even more danger.
Homophobia is widespread in Uganda, and while no prosecutions have taken place in recent years, harassment and intimidation are commonplace.
The UN, Amnesty International, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the EU have all condemned the legislation. After the first version of the law was passed on March 21, the White House warned of potential economic consequences for Uganda. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, has called the law “discriminatory—probably the worst of its kind in the world.”