Ugandan lawmakers have passed a sweeping anti-gay law that can bring punishments as severe as the death penalty — the culmination of a long-running campaign against L.G.B.T.Q. people in a conservative nation in East Africa.
The law, which was passed late on Tuesday night after more than seven hours of discussion and amendments, calls for a life sentence for anyone engaging in gay sex, and even attempting to have same-sex relations would be met with a seven-year prison term.
The death penalty would be applied to people convicted of “aggravated homosexuality,” a sweeping term defined in the law as homosexual acts committed by anyone infected with H.I.V. or involving children, disabled people or anyone drugged against their will.
The parliamentary vote in Uganda comes as anti-gay policies and discrimination have been on the rise in several African nations, including Kenya, Ghana and Zambia.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda also imposes a penalty of up to 1 billion Ugandan shillings — about $264,000 — on any entity convicted of promoting homosexuality. People under 18 who are convicted of engaging in homosexuality face up to three years in prison, along with a period of “rehabilitation.”
“This House will continue to pass laws that recognize, protect and safeguard the sovereignty, morals and cultures of this country,” Anita Annet Among, the speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, said after legislators finished voting.
The bill will now go to President Yoweri Museveni, a close Western ally who receives almost a billion dollars a year in development aid from the United States, but who has also been strident in his support for anti-gay measures. He has yet to show any sign that he will reject the measure.
The bill’s passing was sharply criticized by rights groups and a few lawmakers, who said it infringed on the freedoms of Ugandans and further eroded the rights of gay people.
“This bill shouldn’t have been passed,” said Oryem Nyeko, the Uganda researcher at Human Rights Watch. “It opens the door to numerous rights violations, not only for sexual minorities but for every person living in Uganda.”