Uganda president signs anti-LGBTQIA+ law that includes death penalty

President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni signed the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 into law Monday. The law authorizes the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,”  which includes same-sex relations with a vulnerable person, a person under 18, or when the actor is HIV positive. The bill also sets a term of life in prison for anyone convicted of “homosexuality,” which constitutes all other same-sex relations.

The bill was originally passed by the Ugandan Parliament in March, but Museveni refused to sign the bill, sending it back to parliament with requested changes. Parliament then passed an updated version, with Museveni’s changes, refining the bill’s focus to target those who engage in or “promote” same-sex relations.

The bill has faced condemnation from political leaders across the globe. UK Minister of State for Africa Andrew Mitchell expressed concern over the bill saying, “Democracy depends on the guarantee of equal rights under law and freedom from discrimination for everyone in society. This legislation undermines the protections and freedoms of all Ugandans enshrined in the Ugandan Constitution.”

US President Joe Biden also condemned the bill, stating:

The enactment of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act is a tragic violation of universal human rights—one that is not worthy of the Ugandan people, and one that jeopardizes the prospects of critical economic growth for the entire country…This shameful Act is the latest development in an alarming trend of human rights abuses and corruption in Uganda. 

Biden went on to state that his administration would review several aid programs that benefit Uganda and consider potential sanctions. The United Nations Human Rights Office also condemned the law, warning, “It is a recipe for systematic violations of the rights of LGBT people & the wider population.”

Arthur Kamiya, a Ugandan LGBTQIA+ activist residing in Britain, called on businesses to stand with LGBTQIA+ Ugandans, stating, “…big business has obligations to ensure gay lives are protected and should be putting their economic investment on the table as leverage.”

The Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament Anita Annet Among defended the law, saying, “As Parliament of Uganda, we have heeded the concerns [of] our people and legislated to protect the sanctity of family.”

According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), across the African continent, only 22 of 54 countries have legalized homosexuality. Mauritania and Somalia allow the death penalty for same-sex sexual acts.