Activists seek more pressure on Uganda over 'aggravated homosexuality' law

  • Gay rights activists are calling for more pressure on the Ugandan government over a law that carries the death penalty for so-called “aggravated homosexuality.”
  • The law, which the African nation’s Constitutional Court refused to nullify Wednesday, imposes the death penalty on certain sex crimes when committed against a victim of the same sex. Others are punishable by lengthy prison terms.
  • Homosexuality was previously illegal under Ugandan law, and is outlawed in dozens of other African countries.

Ugandan gay rights activists asked the international community to mount more pressure on the government of Uganda to repeal an anti-gay law which the country’s Constitutional Court refused to nullify on Wednesday.

Activist Frank Mugisha said Tuesday’s ruling was “wrong and deplorable.”

“This ruling should result in further restrictions to donor funding for Uganda — no donor should be funding anti-LGBTQ+ hate and human rights violations,” said Mugisha.


The court upheld a law that allows the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” and up to 14 years in prison for a suspect convicted of “attempted aggravated homosexuality.” The offense of “attempted homosexuality” is punishable by up to 10 years.

President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act into law in May last year. It’s supported by many in the East African country but widely condemned by rights groups and others abroad.

The court ordered that members of the LGBT community should not be discriminated against when seeking medicine, but U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday dismissed that concession as a “small and insufficient step towards safeguarding human rights.”

Yoweri Museveni

FILE – Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni speaks during the 60th Independence Anniversary Celebrations, in Kampala, Uganda on Oct. 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Hajarah Nalwadda, File)

“The remaining provisions of the AHA pose grave threats to the Ugandan people, especially LGBTQI+ Ugandans and their allies, undermine public health, clamp down on civic space, damage Uganda’s international reputation, and harm efforts to increase foreign investment,” he said.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Thursday the court’s decision “is deeply disappointing, imperils human rights, and jeopardizes economic prosperity for all Ugandans.”

Sullivan said President Joe Biden’s administration “continues to assess implications of the AHA on all aspects of U.S. engagement with the Government of Uganda and has taken significant actions thus far,” including sanctions and visa restrictions against Ugandan officials and reduced support for the government, he said. “The United States will continue to hold accountable individuals and entities that perpetrate human rights abuses in Uganda, both unilaterally and with partners around the world.”

A Ugandan human rights advocate who was a petitioner in the case, Nicholas Opiyo, expressed his disappointment.

“While we respect the court, we vehemently disagree with its findings and the basis on which it was reached. We approached the court expecting it to apply the law in defense of human rights and not rely on public sentiments, and vague cultural values arguments,” said Opiyo.


Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda under a colonial-era law criminalizing sexual activity “against the order of nature.” The punishment for that offense is life imprisonment.


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