Uganda is making history as they make their first ever arrests for “aggravated homosexuality,” an offense punishable by death penalty, under the country’s new controversial anti-gay laws.
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According to recent reports out of Kampala, Uganda, two men are facing separate charges of “aggravated homosexuality,” and are possibly facing death thanks to a newly rolled out piece of anti-gay legislation.
The new Anti-Homosexuality Act — which has received widespread support in the country, but faces intense criticism outside the nation — was enacted in May 2023 after being signed into law by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
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Reports reveal that the highly-criticized act outlaws gay marriage, punishes same-sex acts with life imprisonment, and calls for the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” which includes incest; sex with children or people with disabilities or the elderly; and having sex while HIV positive.
According to officials in Uganda, it has been decades since they last carried out an execution; however, its longtime president has previously threatened to resume state assent for capital punishment, back in 2018.
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Two months after the new anti-homosexual law went into effect, the country made its first arrest for “aggravated homosexuality.” In July, a man was arrested and charged in the Jinja district in Eastern Uganda. He was accused of “performing a sexual act with a child aged 12 of the same sex.”
Then on August 18, a 20-year-old man, in the district of Soroti in Eastern Uganda, was charged after he allegedly “performed unlawful sexual intercourse” with another man, said to be 41 years old and having a disability.
Reportedly, the documents did not immediately clarify the aggravating factor in the second case, nor did it exactly say what kind of disability the victim had. However, the charging paperwork noted that the crime took place at a sports stadium in Soroti.
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The attorney representing the 20-year-old suspect, Justine Balya, told CNN that the penalties associated with the new anti-homosexual law is entirely excessive.
Balya, who is now representing several other people arrested for lesser offenses under the Anti-Homosexuality Act, said, “Of course the fact that the law is being enforced in this way is entirely unconstitutional because it seeks to criminalize what is often consensual conduct between adults.”
Balya also said that cases like this could go to trial if there is a long delay, and notes that she also expects her client to be in pre-trial remand for an extended period of time. Balya’s 20-year-old client and the other man charged in Jinja are both under remand and expected to appear in court this month.
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