AFRICANGLOBE – Ugandan politicians have passed an anti-homosexuality law that punishes “aggravated homosexuality” with life imprisonment.
The bill drew wide condemnation when it was first introduced in 2010 and initially included the death penalty, but that was removed from the revised version passed by parliament.
The law passed on Friday sets life imprisonment as the maximum penalty for the new offence of “aggravated homosexuality,” according to the office of a spokeswoman for Uganda’s parliament.
For the bill to be enacted it must be signed by President Yoweri Museveni. There is currently some specualtion as to whether he will sign the bill, which was first introduced to parliament in 2009, in to law.
Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda under a colonial-era law that criminalised sexual acts against the order of nature.
The Ugandan politician who introduced the bill to parliament argued that tough new legislation was needed because homosexuals from the West threaten to destroy Ugandan families by allegedly “recruiting” Ugandan children into gay lifestyles.
Ugandan gays denied this claim, saying that Ugandan political and religious leaders had come under the influence of American evangelicals who wanted to spread their anti-gay campaign in Africa.
In March 2012 Ugandan homosexuals sued Scott Lively, a Massachusetts evangelical, under the Alien Tort Statute that allows non-citizens to file suit in the United States if there is an alleged violation of international law.
Lively denied he wanted severe punishment for gays, and has previously told The Associated Press news agency he never advocated violence against gays but advised therapy for them.
In 2012 Uganda held its first gay pride parade and have previously joined street marches in support of all human rights.
Despite criticism of the bill abroad, it was highly popular among Ugandans who said the country had the right to pass laws that protect its children.
The bill was repeatedly shelved despite the protests of Ugandan politicians.
Days before Christmas last year, the speaker of Uganda’s parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, said they would pass the anti-homosexuality law as a “Christmas gift” to all Ugandans.