Uganda has introduced some of the world’s cruellest anti-LGBTQ+ laws, meaning people who identify as gay there could face life in prison.

The country’s parliament approved the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023 on 21 March, with its broad wording targeting “aggravated homosexuality”.

According to the law, this term refers to sex acts committed without consent or under duress, against children, people with mental and/or physical disabilities, by a “serial offender,” or involving incest.

“A person who commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality and is liable, on conviction to suffer death,” the amendments said.

Same-sex relations were already illegal in Uganda, with this being part of wider efforts to crackdown on the LGBTQ+ community there.

“It criminalises people simply for being who they are”

Asuman Basalirwa introduced the bill to parliament, explaining that it exists to “protect our church culture; the legal, religious and traditional family values of Ugandans from the acts that are likely to promote sexual promiscuity in this country.”

Speaking on 21 March, the lawmaker continued: “The objective of the bill was to establish a comprehensive and enhanced legislation to protect traditional family values, our diverse culture, our faiths, by prohibiting any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex and the promotion or recognition of sexual relations between persons of the same sex.”

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Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the legislation and said it would violate the rights of Ugandans.

“One of the most extreme features of this new bill is that it criminalises people simply for being who they are as well as further infringing on the rights to privacy, and freedoms of expression and association that are already compromised in Uganda,” said HRW Uganda researcher Oryem Nyeko.

The bill is expected to head to the desk of President Yoweri Museveni, who previously used the term “deviants” to describe homosexuals, for assent – at which point it will become the law of the land.