KAMPALA – Ugandan authorities have charged a man with aggravated homosexuality, which carries a possible death penalty, in the first use of the charge since the enactment in May of an anti-gay law that has been condemned by critics as draconian.
The law has widespread support in Uganda but has drawn pressure from abroad on Ugandan officials to repeal the measure. The World Bank earlier this month announced a decision not to consider new loans to Uganda because of the law, drawing an angry response from President Yoweri Museveni.
The suspect is identified as a 20-year-old “peasant” in the eastern district of Soroti who was charged on Aug. 18 with having unlawful sexual intercourse with a 41-year-old man, according to the charging document issued by police in the Soroti Central Division.
Aggravated homosexuality is defined as cases of same-sex sexual relations involving a minor and other categories of vulnerable people, or when the perpetrator is infected with HIV. The charging document does not clarify the aggravating factor in the case, or say how the victim might be part of a vulnerable population.
It says the offense took place at a sports stadium in Soroti, but provides no other details. No information was immediately available on who might represent the defendant in court.
The law has been condemned by rights groups and other campaigners. A group of U.N. experts described the law as “an egregious violation of human rights,” while Amnesty International called it “draconian and overly broad.”
A suspect convicted of attempted aggravated homosexuality can be imprisoned for up to 14 years, under the new law. The legislation in May did not criminalize those who identify as LGBTQ+, which had been a key concern for activists who campaigned against an earlier version of the legislation.
Homosexuality is criminalized in more than 30 of Africa’s 54 countries. Some Africans see it as behavior imported from abroad and not a sexual orientation.
Police in Nigeria on Tuesday announced the detention of at least 67 people celebrating a gay wedding in one of the largest mass detentions targeting homosexuality, which is outlawed in the West African country.