Man charged with ‘aggravated homosexuality’ faces death penalty in Uganda

The 20-year-old is believed to be the first person charged with 'aggravated homosexuality' since the introduction of the nation's extreme Anti-Homosexuality Act earlier this year.

This article is about a man in Uganda being charged with aggravated homosexuality. The image is a close up of hands clasped together with a rainbow band wrapped around one hand and arm.
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A man in Uganda has been charged with ‘aggravated homosexuality’ in the first known case since the country’s enactment of its extreme anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in May. According to Reuters, the 20-year-old defendant was indicted on August 18 for having “performed unlawful sexual intercourse” with a 41-year-old male.

The charge sheet did not disclose what made the act ‘aggravated’, an offence which includes having gay sex with a minor, older person or someone with disabilities, as well as having sex while HIV Positive. Under the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023, the crime is punishable by death, while other cases of same-sex relations can result in life in prison.

Commenting on the case, Jacqueline Okui, spokesperson for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, said: “Since it is a capital offence triable by the High Court, the charge was read out and explained to (the defendant) in the Magistrate’s Court on (the) 18th and he was remanded.” She did not provide any additional details on the offence.

Justine Balya, an attorney for the defendant, similarly did not disclose any further information about the specifics but said she believes that the law is unconstitutional. Further, she stated that although her client is the first in Uganda to be prosecuted for aggravated homosexuality, four others have been charged for different offences under the legislation. 

While capital punishment has not been enforced in the country since 2005, it was never officially abolished, and in 2018, President Kaguta Yoweri Museveni threatened to resume executions in an attempt to reduce crime levels. Museveni was then responsible for passing the Anti-Homosexuality Act on May 29, sparking widespread backlash.

Countries around the world, including Ireland, have joined human rights activists in speaking out in opposition to the law and its extreme punishments, and World Bank cut off new loans to the country. Even so, Uganda is showing no signs of backpedalling, with this news coming as a worrying development for the local queer community.

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