19.04.2024

Uganda charges man with ‘aggravated homosexuality’ punishable by death in first-known case

A 20-year old in Uganda has become the first person in the country to be prosecuted for “aggravated homosexuality”, an offense punishable by death under the country’s draconian new anti-gay legislation, said the man’s lawyer.

Passed in May this year, the law introduces the death penalty in cases of so-called “aggravated homosexuality” – a term the government uses to describe actions including having gay sex when HIV-positive or having intercourse with a minor or an elderly person, or a person with disability.

It also prescribes life in prison for same-sex intercourse.

The suspect was charged on 18 August, after he “performed unlawful sexual intercourse” with a 41-year-old man, as per the chargesheet. It did not specify why the act was considered “aggravated”.

“Since it is a capital offence triable by the High Court, the charge was read out and explained to him in the Magistrate’s Court on (the) 18th and he was remanded,” Jacqueline Okui, spokesperson for the office of the director of public prosecutions, told Reuters.

Ms Okui said she was not aware of any others charged under “aggravated homosexuality”.

Justine Balya, an attorney for the defendant, said four other people have been charged under the law since its enactment and that her client was the first to be prosecuted for aggravated homosexuality. She declined to comment on the specifics of his case.

Ms Balya said she believed the entire law was unconstitutional. The law has been challenged in court, but the judges have not yet taken up thecase.

Earlier last week,Ugandan police arrested four people for allegedly engaging in same-sex activity, reported news agency AFP. They were held after the police received a tip-off from a female informant in the area.

The draconian legislation, introduced three months ago, was unanimously condemned by the UN, foreign governments including the US and global rights groups such as Amnesty International.

Earlier this month, the World Bank announced suspending new loans for the country after concluding that the anti-LGBT+ law contradicts its values.

“No new public financing to Uganda will be presented to our Board of Executive Directors until the efficacy of the additional measures has been tested,” it said in a statement, adding that such measures were now under discussion with Ugandan authorities.

“Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act fundamentally contradicts the World Bank Group’s values. We believe our vision to eradicate poverty on a liveable planet can only succeed if it includes everyone irrespective of race, gender, or sexuality,” it said.

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