Uganda charges 20-year-old man with ‘aggravated homosexuality’

A 20-year-old man has become the first Ugandan to face charges of “aggravated homosexuality,” a crime that carries the death penalty as stipulated by the recently implemented anti-gay legislation in the country.

Despite facing pressure from Western governments and human rights organizations, Uganda passed one of the world’s strictest laws aimed at the LGBT community in May.

The law mandates life imprisonment for engaging in same-sex intercourse. In situations deemed “aggravated,” which encompass repeat offenses, same-sex intercourse resulting in the transmission of a terminal illness, or engaging in such acts with a minor, an elderly individual, or a person with disabilities, the death penalty can be imposed.

Based on a charge sheet obtained by local and international media, the accused was formally charged on August 18 with aggravated homosexuality.

The charge stemmed from allegedly engaging in “unlawful sexual intercourse” with a 41-year-old man. The document, however, did not elaborate on the factors that led to the act being classified as aggravated.

“Since it is a capital offence triable by the High Court, the charge was read out and explained to him in the Magistrate‚Äôs Court on (the) 18th and he was remanded,” Jacqueline Okui, spokesperson for the office of the director of public prosecutions, told media.

Okui refrained from sharing further particulars regarding the case. She mentioned that she was unaware of any prior instances where individuals had been charged with aggravated homosexuality.

Justine Balya, the defendant’s lawyer, expressed her belief that the entire law was in violation of the constitution. While the law has been legally contested, the case has not yet been taken up by the judges.

Balya noted that four additional individuals have faced charges under this law since its implementation. Her client was the initial one to be prosecuted for aggravated homosexuality. She chose not to elaborate on the details of his case.

Uganda has refrained from carrying out executions for approximately twenty years; however, the death penalty has not been abolished. In 2018, President Yoweri Museveni made a threat to resume executions in order to curb a surge in criminal activities.

The law’s introduction three months ago sparked broad disapproval and warnings of potential sanctions. In recent weeks, the World Bank halted new public funding to Uganda as a response to the law.

The United States has taken steps to enforce visa limitations on certain Ugandan officials, and President Joe Biden has directed a review of American assistance to Uganda.

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