A 20-year-old man in Uganda has become the first person to be charged with “aggravated homosexuality” under the country’s recently enacted anti-gay law. The defendant was charged on August 18 for engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse with a 41-year-old man. The charge sheet did not provide specific details on why the act was considered aggravated. The spokesperson for the office of the director of public prosecutions, Jacqueline Okui, confirmed that the charge was read and explained to the defendant in the Magistrate’s Court, and he was subsequently remanded. Okui did not provide further information about the case or any previous instances of aggravated homosexuality charges.
The defendant’s lawyer, Justine Balya, believes that the entire law is unconstitutional. The law has been challenged in court, but the judges have not yet taken up the case. Uganda enacted one of the world’s harshest laws targeting the LGBTQ community in May, despite international condemnation and pressure from Western governments and rights organizations. The legislation has been criticized by rights groups and campaigners, with the United Nations experts describing it as a violation of human rights and Amnesty International labeling it as draconian and overly broad. The law imposes life imprisonment for same-sex intercourse, and the death penalty can be applied in cases deemed “aggravated,” including repeat offenses, transmission of terminal illness through gay sex, or engaging in same-sex intercourse with a minor, elderly person, or person with disabilities.
Balya stated that four other individuals have been charged under the law since its enactment, but her client is the first to be prosecuted for aggravated homosexuality. She declined to comment on the specifics of his case. It is worth noting that Uganda has not executed anyone in approximately 20 years, although capital punishment has not been abolished, and President Yoweri Museveni threatened to resume executions in 2018 to combat rising crime rates.
The law’s enactment three months ago drew widespread condemnation and threats of sanctions. Earlier this month, the World Bank suspended a loan to Uganda in response to the law. Currently homosexuality is criminalized in over 30 of Africa’s 54 countries.