Uganda Passes Law Mandating Life in Prison for ‘Aggravated Homosexuality’

After years of debate, the bill, which President Obama has called “odious,” passed through the Ugandan Parliament and now awaits the president’s signature. 

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A woman takes part in an anti-gay demonstration in Kampala, Uganda, in 2010.

Trevor Snapp/AFP/Getty Images

“I am officially illegal,” gay activist Frank Mugisha told Agence France-Presse.

Mugisha was responding to the passage of a harsh anti-gay bill by the Ugandan Parliament on Friday. The law punishes “aggravated homosexuality” with life in prison. Similar to Russia’s own “gay propaganda” law, it criminalizes support of homosexuality, including even advocacy groups’ discussion of the issue, the New York Times reports

The law isn’t even as intolerant as it could have been, however. When it was introduced in 2010, it suggested the death sentence in some cases and would have mandated that citizens report "acts of homosexuality" within 24 hours, the Times notes. The international community was outraged—President Obama called it “odious”—and ultimately the death-penalty clause was removed.

Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda, but according to the Times, Ugandan lawmaker David Bahati proposed strengthening existing laws to prevent gay people from the West from influencing young Ugandans.

“I am glad the Parliament has voted against evil,” Bahati said, calling the law a “victory for Uganda.”

Mugisha told Reuters that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Uganda was now even more fearful. “We in the gay community are in a panic,” he told Reuters. “People are afraid of walking in the streets because they know how Ugandans like to take the law into their own hands.”

Read more at the New York Times and Reuters.

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