Uganda is moving fast to enforce its recently passed anti-LGBTQ law after charging a 20-year-old man with “aggravated homosexuality” offence.
The man becomes the first Ugandan to be charged under the law and with this particular offence which is punishable by death.
His lawyer, Justine Balya said she believed the entire law was unconstitutional. The law has been challenged in court though after its passage and subsequent signing by President Yoweri Museveni, but the judges have not yet taken up the case.
Balya 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.
The anti-LGBTQ law has been widely condemned by the international community and other human rights groups.
The law is one of the world’s harshest and allows for death penalty for persons considered serial offenders.
It also imposes a life sentence for same-sex intercourse and a 20-year sentence for promotion of homosexuality.
But the death penalty applies in cases deemed “aggravated” and that relates to repeat offences, same-sex intercourse that transmits terminal illness, or with a minor, an elderly person or a person with disabilities.
The defendant was charged on August 18 with the same offence of aggravated homosexuality after he reportedly “performed unlawful sexual intercourse” with a 41-year-old man.
“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, was quoted by Reuters as saying.
Uganda has not carried out the death penalty in around two decades, although capital punishment has not been abolished.
President Museveni had criticized a decision by the World Bank to suspend new funding to his country because of their anti-gay law.
The World Bank has said the law contradicted its values, adding that “it would pause new funding until it could test measures to prevent discrimination in projects it finances”.
In a sharp rebuttal, defiant President Museveni said he would not give in to pressure from foreign institutions. He said Uganda is already trying to reduce its borrowing.
“It is, therefore, unfortunate that the World Bank and other actors dare to want to coerce us into abandoning our faith, culture, principles and sovereignty, using money. They really underestimate all Africans,” he said.
President Museveni said in a statement that if Uganda needed to borrow, it could do so from other sources, and that oil production expected to start by 2025 would provide additional revenues.