KAMPALA – A 20-year old man is the first Ugandan charged with “aggravated homophobia,” a crime punishable by the death penalty under the recently passed anti-gay laws in the country, according to prosecutors and the lawyer for the accused.
In May , Uganda passed the harshest law in the world against the LGBTQ community.
The same-sex act is punishable by life imprisonment. Death penalty is applicable in “aggravated” cases, which includes repeat offenses, homosexual sex transmitting terminal illnesses, or same-sex sexual relations with a child, elderly person, or person with disabilities.
Reuters has seen a chargesheet that states the defendant was charged with aggravated homophobia on August 18 after he had “unlawful sexual relations” with a man aged 41. The charge sheet did not explain why the act was deemed aggravated.
Jacqueline Okui from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions told Reuters that “since it’s a capital offense, the charge has been read and explained to him at the Magistrate Court on the 18th, and he’s been remanded.”
Okui didn’t provide any additional details. She stated that she did not know of any other person who had been charged with aggravated homophobia.
Justine Balya said that she believes the entire law is unconstitutional. The law is being challenged in court but the judges are yet to take up the case.
Balya stated that four others have been charged since the law was enacted and her client is the first person to be prosecuted under this law for aggravated homophobia. She refused to comment on his specific case.
Uganda hasn’t executed anyone for around 20 years, but the capital punishment is still in place. President Yoweri Mueveni has threatened to resume executions in 2018 in order to curb a crime wave.
Three months after the law was passed, it was widely condemned and sanctions were threatened. In response to this law, World Bank has suspended any new public financing for Uganda.
Some Ugandan officials have also been subject to visa restrictions, and Joe Biden, the President of the United States ordered an assessment of U.S. assistance for Uganda.