Uganda Anti-LGBTQ Law – Man Faces Death Penalty
Ugandan law enforcement has charged Michael Opolot, aged 20, with “aggravated homosexuality.” This is a crime punishable by death under Uganda’s newly implemented anti-gay legislation.
On August 18, the defendant received charges of aggravated homosexuality after he “performed unlawful sexual intercourse” with a 41-year-old man. The charging document did not explain why the offense was classified as aggravated.
This offense carries a death sentence. One of the strictest anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the world was approved in Uganda in May. “Repeat offenders,” or those who spread HIV to others or have close relationships with children or those with disabilities, are the targets of this law.
Opolot was “charged with aggravated homosexuality because it is alleged that the person deemed to be the victim is not of sound mind,” says Patience Muwanga, a human rights lawyer who works for the human rights group Chapter Four and is part of the defense team. “But our investigation and what is on record show that there is no proof that the victim is of unsound mind.”
Homophobia In Africa
When Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni issued the legislation in May, homosexuality was already a crime in the country under legislation going back to the British colonial period, with penalties of up to life imprisonment. The new law, which received criticism amid the background of rising homophobia in Africa, not only maintains life imprisonment for sexual actions between people of the same sex but now punishes “aggravated homosexuality” with the death sentence and “promotion of homosexuality” with up to 20 years in jail.
“The recent rampant arrest of people for being homosexual has sent a wave of fear among the LGBTQ+ community in Uganda,” remarked Ram Gava. Ram Gava is a gay pastor whose church was closed after the new legislation was passed. “Many gay people are going into hiding to protect their lives,” he stated.
Frank Mugisha, a lawyer and activist, said this is a classic example of a witch hunt targeting homosexual individuals.
“Those people have not identified themselves as LGBTQ,” Mugisha stated. “But the fact that there’s an assumption that they were engaging in same-sex acts. And then they are saying one person is living with a disability. Which automatically means the prosecution will have to prefer the death penalty under aggravated homosexuality. It’s exactly as activists have been saying, that this law can be wrongly interpreted.”
Uganda last executed a person in 1999 and officially abolished the death penalty in 2005.
However, the anti-homosexuality legislation reinstated the death sentence for aggravated homosexuality. This is a decision that advocacy groups have opposed and are contesting in court.
During the law’s passage, government officials claimed that they were defending their ethical ideals against “immoral Western values.”