European Parliament President Roberta Metsola condemned Uganda’s adoption of an anti-LGBTQ+ law that includes the death penalty for “serial offenders” and “aggravated homosexuality”.

Metsola said the law was deeply worrying and undermined human rights in Uganda.

“This parliament has repeatedly reaffirmed that people should be allowed to live how they wish to live, be who they wish to be, and love as they wish to love,” she told the opening of the parliamentary assembly on Wednesday.

Same-sex relations were already illegal in Uganda, as in more than 30 African countries, but the bill, signed into law on Monday, goes further. It introduces the death penalty for “serial offenders” and for “aggravated homosexuality”, an offence that includes transmitting HIV through gay sex.

The U.S. threatened aid cuts, sanctions and visa restrictions for some Ugandan officials, while the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc “regrets” the signing of the bill and that it would impact international partnerships.

The Ugandan government called the Western response blackmail.

Prominent Ugandan rights activist Frank Mugisha was in Brussels to speak to EU lawmakers and urged the bloc to increase its support.

“It cannot be business as usual. International partners and allies cannot just look away,” he said.

But he urged caution with threats to withdraw aid.

“Blanket sanctions will impact those who need it the most and would also create a backlash against LGBTQ+ people in Uganda, who will be seen as the reason aid was cut,” Mugisha told Openly.

A European Union spokesperson said there were no plans to impose sanctions on Uganda for the time being, but said the bloc was monitoring the implementation of the law and legal appeals against it.

Ugandan activists and lawyers on Monday filed a lawsuit against the law. They said it encourages discrimination and stigmatisation and say it was passed without meaningful public participation.

Among those who filed the lawsuit, Mugisha remains hopeful that legal efforts will succeed in striking down the law, as happened with previous anti-LGBTQ+ laws in 2009 and 2014.

“I am optimistic because this law doesn’t belong in a modern society,” he said.

Reporting by Joanna Gill.

GAY TIMES and Openly/Thomson Reuters Foundation are working together to deliver leading LGBTQ+ news to a global audience.