KAMPALA - Gay activists in Uganda are calling for a repeal of the Anti-Homosexuality Act signed into law Monday by President Yoweri Museveni. With members of Uganda's LGBTQ community in shock, critics say the law, which allows life imprisonment and the death penalty in some cases, is draconian and the world's harshest.
The new law calls for up to 20 years in prison for promoting homosexuality and life imprisonment for anyone convicted of homosexuality.
The law also imposes the death penalty for what it calls "aggravated homosexuality." This includes having sex with people categorized as vulnerable, including the elderly and children.
Any Ugandan who does not report such cases is liable on conviction to spend five years in prison or pay a fine of 10 million Ugandan shillings, about $2,680.
Also, journalists and other media figures face five years in prison if they disclose the identity of a victim of a homosexual act without the authority of the court or that person.
Eric Ndawula, executive director of the Lifeline Youth Empowerment Center, an NGO in Kampala that provides support to Ugandans who are gay, bisexual or queer, told VOA that the LGBTQ community is frightened over what will come next.
FILE - Activists hold placards during their picket against Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill at the Ugandan High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa, Apr. 4, 2023.
"I am very scared honestly," he said. "It was expected, but it came very abrupt this morning to just wake up to such news. We are still working together as a convening for equality to see our next step forward. But the news has just shocked us."
In April, parliament passed the Anti-Homosexuality Act on a vote of 341 to 1.
In a statement Monday, parliament speaker Anita Among said lawmakers heeded the concerns of Ugandans and legislated to protect the sanctity of the family.
Among urged authorities to enforce the law in what she called a fair, steadfast and firm manner.
Amnesty International has described the law as draconian and says it hopes that Ugandan rights groups will advocate for its repeal.
"We hope that we will continue working with rights groups to push or challenge, especially parliamentarians, to repeal this abhorrent law," Roland Ebole, Amnesty International's regional researcher, told VOA. "I know the second option is very unlikely considering that this was passed by a very large majority, so perhaps our hope right now is the court. That the court will actually look at this law and see that it is a violation on human rights."
International bodies that operate in Uganda, such as UNAIDS and USAID, have previously stated that the passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act will not only complicate their work in Uganda, but reverse the gains made by country in the fight against HIV/AIDS.