Ugandan court rejects bid to nullify anti-gay law that provides for the death penalty in some cases

Uganda’s constitutional court on Wednesday upheld an anti-gay law that allows the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.”

President Yoweri Museveni signed the bill into law in May last year. The law is supported by many in the East African country but widely condemned by rights activists and others abroad.

Activists had contested the law in court, but the judges declined to overturn it in their ruling.

The law defines “aggravated homosexuality” as cases of homosexual relations involving a minor and other categories of vulnerable people, or when the perpetrator is infected with HIV. A suspect convicted of “attempted aggravated homosexuality” can be imprisoned for up to 14 years, and the offense of “attempted homosexuality” is punishable by up to 10 years.

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.

The United Nations expressed deep concern when the new law was passed, with the U.N. Human Rights Office calling it ”a recipe for systematic violations of the rights” of LGBTQ+ people and others.

President Joe Biden called the law “a tragic violation of universal human rights — one that is not worthy of the Ugandan people, and one that jeopardizes the prospects of critical economic growth for the entire country.”

Homosexuality is criminalized in more than 30 of Africa’s 54 countries. Some Africans see it as behavior imported from abroad and not a sexual orientation.