Ugandan Court Upholds Draconian Anti-Gay Law

Uganda’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday largely upheld a sweeping anti-gay law that President Yoweri Museveni signed last year, undermining the efforts of activists and rights groups to abolish legislation that drew worldwide condemnation and strained the East African nation’s relationship with the West.

The legislation, which was signed into law by Mr. Museveni in May, calls for life imprisonment for anyone who engages in gay sex. Anyone who tries to have same-sex relations could face up to a decade in prison.

Uganda has faced international consequences for passing the law, with the World Bank suspending all new funding and the United States imposing sanctions and visa restrictions on top Ugandan officials. But the law was popular in Uganda, a landlocked nation of over 48 million people, where religious and political leaders frequently inveigh against homosexuality.

The fallout for Uganda will be watched closely in other African countries where anti-gay sentiment is on the rise and anti-gay legislation is under consideration, including Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania and South Sudan. In February, Ghana’s Parliament passed an anti-gay law, but the country’s president said that he would not sign it until the Supreme Court ruled on its constitutionality.

In the Ugandan case, Frank Mugisha, a prominent human rights activist and one of the petitioners, said that they would appeal the Constitutional Court’s decision to the Supreme Court.

The law in Uganda decrees the death penalty for anyone convicted of “aggravated homosexuality,” a sweeping term defined as acts of same-sex relations with minors or disabled people, those carried out under threat or while someone is unconscious. Even being accused of what the law refers to as “attempted aggravated homosexuality” carries a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

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