A 20-year-old man is facing a potential death sentence after he became the first person to be charged with “aggravated homosexuality” under Uganda’s new law that calls for the death penalty for some same-sex sexual relations.
The unnamed man was accused of having “performed unlawful sexual intercourse” with another man on August 18, according to Reuters, which viewed a copy of the charging sheet. No reason was given why the offense was considered aggravated or regarding the disposition of the 41-year-old participant in the alleged sex act.
According to a charge sheet seen by Reuters, the defendant was charged August 18 with aggravated homosexuality after he "performed unlawful sexual intercourse" with a 41-year-old man. It did not specify why the act was considered aggravated.
A spokesperson for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions confirmed to Reuters the charged man is facing the death penalty if convicted.
“Since it is a capital offense 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,” spokesperson Jacqueline Okui told Reuters.
The man’s lawyer, Justine Balya, told Reuters four other individuals have been charged under the new law but that her client is the first to be charged with aggravated homosexuality. She declined further comment on the case other than to state she believes the law to be unconstitutional.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2023 was passed by the Uganda Parliament and signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni in May. The law calls for the death penalty in cases of “aggravated homosexuality,” which refers to repeat offenders and people living with HIV engaging in same-sex sexual relations. People found to be “engaging in acts of homosexuality” can be sentenced to life in prison.
“I thank His Excellency, the president, for his steadfast action in the interest of Uganda,” Annet said at the time. “With a lot of humility, I thank my colleagues the Members of Parliament for withstanding all the pressure from bullies and doomsday conspiracy theorists in the interest of the country,” she added.
President Joe Biden condemned the law in May, calling it “a tragic violation of universal human rights — one that is not worthy of the Ugandan people, and one that jeopardizes the prospects of critical economic growth for the entire country.” He called for “its immediate repeal” and declared, “No one should have to live in constant fear for their life or being subjected to violence and discrimination.”
“Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act fundamentally contradicts the World Bank Group’s values,” the World Bank said in a statement at the time. “We believe our vision to eradicate poverty on a livable planet can only succeed if it includes everyone irrespective of race, gender, or sexuality. This law undermines those efforts. Inclusion and non-discrimination sit at the heart of our work around the world.”
The new law is facing a legal challenge in the Uganda courts. In 2014, the Constitutional Court of Uganda annulled the similar Anti-Homosexual Act of 2014, albeit on procedural grounds — for the manner in which it was enacted. That law criminalized same-sex sexual relations and marriage equality, and called for the extradition of individuals outside the country who violated the law while in Uganda. When it was pending, it was known for a time as the “kill the gays” bill, but a section providing for the death penalty was removed by the time it was passed.