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Uganda president signs anti-LGBTQ bill, which includes death penalty provisions, into law

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. 

Could affect Uganda’s trade and development aid from Western countries.

Uganda approves harsh new anti-LGBTQ law

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has signed one of the world’s harshest anti-LGBTQ laws. Canada was quick to condemn the new law, which includes the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality.’

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 imposes capital punishment for some behaviour, including transmitting a terminal illness like HIV/AIDS through gay sex, and stipulates a 20-year sentence for “promoting” homosexuality.

“The Ugandan president has today legalized 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.”

Ghana reacts to Uganda’s new anti-LGBTQ laws

Edem Senanu, the chairman of Advocates for Christ Ghana, says while he doesn’t know the full details of Uganda’s new anti-LGBTQ laws, he believes they’re a step in the right direction and is encouraged to see similar laws arrive in his own country. However, Alex Kofi Donkor, founder of LGBT+ Rights Ghana, says what happened in Uganda is ‘barbaric,’ and that people should not be criminalized for their sexuality.

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

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

Government, corporate condemnations

Rights activists have the option of appealing the law before the courts. One group of activists and academics later on Monday petitioned the constitutional court seeking an injunction against enforcement of the law.

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

Three people talk to reporters.

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

The White House condemned the bill after it was first passed in March, and on Monday, U.S. President Joe Biden called it a “tragic violation of universal human rights.”

“This shameful act is the latest development in an alarming trend of human rights abuses and corruption in Uganda,” Biden said in a statement.

Ugandan LGBTQ activist wonders what is left for community

DeLovie ‘Papa De’ Kwagala, an LGBTQ activist in Uganda, holds back their emotions as they react to the country’s new anti-LGBTQ laws that include the death penalty.

The law “jeopardizes the prospects of critical economic growth for the entire country.”

Biden said the U.S. National Security Council will be evaluating the implications on “all aspects of U.S. engagement with Uganda,” including Washington’s ability to safely deliver services under The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), its flagship HIV/AIDS program.

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’s fight against HIV/AIDS “in grave jeopardy.”

Uganda’s President has signed this anti-gay legislation into law. Canada’s stance has not changed: This law is appalling and abhorrent, and we strongly condemn it. We’ll continue to stand with 2SLGBTQI+ people – and stand up for 2SLGBTQI+ rights – at home and abroad. <a href=”https://t.co/NTYkoCPVE4″>https://t.co/NTYkoCPVE4</a>

&mdash;@JustinTrudeau

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.

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.

U.K. government ‘appalled’

The British government said on Monday it was “appalled” at the Ugandan government’s new law and that it’s firmly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances.

“This legislation undermines the protections and freedoms of all Ugandans enshrined in the Ugandan constitution,” the U.K. government said in a statement.

“It will increase the risk of violence, discrimination and persecution, will set back the fight against HIV/AIDS, and will damage Uganda’s international reputation,” the statement said.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly called the law “abhorrent, cruel and unjust.”

“No one should live in fear or be persecuted for who they are and who they love. We stand with the LGBQTQ+ community in pushing back against the rising crackdown on their human rights,” Joly said.

Several signs are shown, carried by demonstrators in front of a building.

Fears other countries could follow suit

Uganda’s move could encourage lawmakers in other countries on the continent to follow suit.

“We’re seeing similar patterns in other countries in the region. We’ve seen attacks on LGBTQ people in Burundi, very hostile rhetoric in Kenya and Tanzania from public figures and on social media. It’s been extremely hostile,” Human Rights Watch researcher Oryem Nyeko told CBC’s The Current in March.

Museveni had sent the original bill back to lawmakers, asking that they 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.

With files from CBC News

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