Salem Radio Network News Thursday, September 28, 2023

World

Uganda law includes death penalty for homosexuality

KAMPALA (Reuters) -Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has signed one of the world’s toughest anti-LGBTQ laws, including the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” in defiance of Western condemnations and potential sanctions from aid donors.

Same-sex relations were already illegal in Uganda, as in more than 30 African countries, but the new law goes much further.

It stipulates capital punishment for “serial offenders” against the law and transmission of a terminal illness like HIV/AIDS through gay sex. It also decrees a 20-year sentence for “promoting” homosexuality.

“The Ugandan president has today legalised state-sponsored homophobia and transphobia,” said Clare Byarugaba, a Ugandan rights activist. “It’s a very dark and sad day for the LGBTIQ community, our allies and all of Uganda.”

She and other activists have vowed a legal challenge to the law, which Museveni was shown signing at his desk with a golden pen in a photo tweeted by the presidency.

The 78-year-old leader has called homosexuality a “deviation from normal” and urged lawmakers to resist “imperialist” pressure.

A less restrictive 2014 anti-LGBTQ law was struck down by a Ugandan court on procedural grounds, after Western governments had initially suspended some aid, imposed visa restrictions and curtailed security cooperation.

Uganda receives billions of dollars in foreign aid each year and could now face further sanctions.

The bill’s sponsor, Asuman Basalirwa, told reporters that parliament speaker Anita Among’s U.S. visa was cancelled after the law was signed. Among and the U.S. embassy in Uganda did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The White House condemned the bill after it was first passed in March, and last month, the U.S. government said it was assessing the implications of the legislation for activities in Uganda under PEPFAR, its flagship HIV/AIDS programme.

In a joint statement on Monday, PEPFAR, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said the law put Uganda‚Äôs anti-HIV fight “in grave jeopardy”.

‘DRACONIAN AND DISCRIMINATORY’

Dominic Arnall, chief executive of Open For Business, a coalition of companies that includes Google and Microsoft, said the group was deeply disappointed.

“Our data shows that this law runs counter to the interests of economic progress and prosperity of all people in Uganda,” he said.

The European Union reiterated a condemnation from March while the United Nations human rights body said the law was a recipe for systematic violation of Ugandans’ rights.

“We are appalled that the draconian and discriminatory anti-gay bill is now law,” it tweeted.

Uganda’s move could encourage lawmakers in neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania seeking similar measures.

“With a lot of humility, I thank my colleagues the Members of Parliament for withstanding all the pressure from bullies and doomsday conspiracy theorists in the interest of our country,” speaker Among said in a statement.

The inclusion of the death penalty for offences like transmitting HIV has drawn particular outrage.

Existing Ugandan law calls for a maximum 10-year sentence for intentionally transmitting HIV and does not apply when the person who contracted the infection was aware of their sexual partner’s HIV status.

By contrast, the new law makes no distinction between intentional and unintentional transmission and contains no exception based on awareness of HIV status.

Uganda’s LGBTQ community is afraid: many have closed down social media accounts and fled their homes for safe houses.

Some are looking to go abroad.

Museveni had sent the original bill back to lawmakers, asking them to tone down some provisions. The amended version stipulated that merely identifying as LGBTQ is not a crime and revised a measure that obliged people to report homosexual activity to only require reporting when a child is involved.

(Reporting by Reuters reporters in East Africa; Additional reporting by Rachel Savage in Johannesburg, Foo Yun Chee in Brussels; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Aaron Ross, Andrew Cawthorne and Giles Elgood)

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