Same-sex couples to face death penalty as Museveni assents to Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni. [File, Standard]

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has assented to the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

It imposes the death penalty for so-called ‘aggravated homosexuality’, which includes having gay sex when HIV-positive, and a 20-year sentence for "promoting" homosexuality.

In a statement on Monday, May 29, parliament speaker Anita Among said the president has taken steadfast action for the interest of the people.

“As parliament of Uganda, we have heeded the concerns of our people and legislated to protect the sanctity of family as per article 31 of the constitution of the Republic of Uganda,” Among stated.

The speaker said that the move to sign the bill into law aims at defending the cultural values and aspirations of the objectives and principles of the states of Uganda.

Among has expressed gratitude to her fellow legislatures for their contributions to executing their mandate despite the challenges.

“With a lot of humility, I thank my fellow members of Parliament for withstanding all the pressure in the interest of our country,’ she noted.

On May 2, Ugandan lawmakers passed the bill after three amendments suggested by the president.

President Museveni suggested that the legislatures distinguish between being a homosexual and actually engaging in same-sex acts.

He also argued against a clause penalising property owners whose premises are used by gay or lesbian people, saying it presented constitutional challenges and would be problematic to enforce.

His third recommendation was that mandating the public to report any same-sex acts should be restricted to cases involving children and vulnerable people.

The bill moved by Asuman Basalirwa was supported by 301 legislators with only a single dissenting vote.

Authorities have acknowledged that Uganda, which receives billions of dollars in foreign aid each year, could face sanctions over the legislation.

According to Reuters, when Museveni signed a less restrictive anti-LGBTQ law in 2014, Western governments suspended some aid, imposed visa restrictions and curtailed security cooperation. That law was nullified within months by a domestic court on procedural grounds.

Last month, the U.S. government said it was assessing the implications of the new legislation for activities in Uganda under its flagship HIV/AIDS programme.

The European Union, the United Nations and dozens of international corporations also condemned the legislation.

Passage of the bill in March sent fear rippling through Uganda's LGBTQ community. Many closed down social media accounts and fled their homes for safe houses.

"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."