1: Solidarity with Uganda supporters during the Gay Pride Parade on July 01, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Peter Nicholls/Getty Images for Pride In London)


Outrage as Uganda charges first person with ‘aggravated homosexuality’


International observers have condemned Uganda for charging a man with “aggravated homosexuality”. He faces the death penalty although details surrounding the case suggest there is room for compromise.

It has been reported that Ugandan prosecutors have charged the man under new anti-LGBTIQA+ legislation, described as some of the harshest in the world.

Even identifying as “gay” is now illegal in the African country. Human rights advocates and Western politicians claim there is a “witch hunt” going on in Uganda and the new laws were voted into being almost unanimously in the country’s parliament.

The man charged with aggravated homosexuality is a 20-year-old who is accused of having sexual relations with a disabled 41-year-old man, according to a spokesperson for Uganda’s director of prosecutions.

“Aggravated homosexuality” is defined as same-sex relations with someone who is either HIV-positive, a child, an elderly person or a disabled person.

Earlier, a 43-year-old man was charged for allegedly performing “a sexual act with a child aged 12 years of the same sex”, US media outlet NPR reported. This means it is, in effect, a case of paedophilia.

NPR said prosecutors decided the man would be tried for aggravated homosexuality rather than under Uganda’s defilement legislation, known as statutory rape laws in other countries. Legal experts said it is likely that prosecutors did that in order to obtain the most severe punishment.

The new law introduced capital punishment for aggravated homosexuality and criminalised the “promotion of homosexuality”, with the latter potentially leading to “fines not exceeding five thousand currency points or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or both”.

LGBTIQA+ advocates said they fear they won’t be able to continue their work in the country under such laws.

Human Rights Watch said the legislation “violates multiple fundamental rights guaranteed under Uganda’s constitution” and “a number of international human rights agreements”.

The law has also been criticised by the World Bank, leading to the suspension of new loans to the nation as the legislation “fundamentally contradicts the values of the World Bank”. In addition, the United States has enforced visa restrictions on certain government officials and is currently reassessing the US aid provided to Uganda.

In Europe, condemnation has also been widely voiced. The European Parliament’s LGBTIQA+ intergroup published a statement lambasting Uganda. Kim van Sparrentak (Greens-EFA), a co-chair of the intergroup, said it was a “grave violation of human rights” and a “step backward” for “respecting the rights of LGBTIQA+ individuals”.

“Such punitive measures lead to the silencing and marginalisation of LGBTIQA+ voices, perpetuating a culture of fear and intolerance,” she said, and promised to keep fighting for the rights of LGBTIQA+ people.

Marc Angel (S&D), another co-chair of the intergroup, also expressed his concerns: “This development is a stark reminder of the ongoing discrimination and persecution faced by the LGBTIQA+ community in many parts of the world.”

The European Parliament’s LGBTIQA+ intergroup did note that “the specificities that warranted the 20-year-old’s charges to be classified as ‘aggravated’ are not explicitly outlined”.

International media organisations including the BBC, the Guardian and CNN did not provide further information regarding the issue.

On X, formerly known as Twitter, the new fact-check mechanism installed by its owner Elon Musk did pick up on it with contributors to the site denouncing the media’s apparent silence, especially CNN, which was widely named and shamed.