Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed new anti-LGBTQ legislation on Monday.
Museveni "has assented to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023. It now becomes the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023," the Ugandan presidency said on Twitter.
Uganda's 'Anti-Homosexuality Act'
Uganda's head of state had called on lawmakers to amend the bill, and a new draft of the legislation was presented earlier this month.
The amended version clarifies that merely identifying as gay would not be cause for imprisonment.
Museveni had also advised lawmakers to remove a provision that made "aggravated homosexuality" subject to capital punishment, but this suggestion was rejected by Uganda's parliament. The provision pertains to repeat offenders and those found to have had sex while HIV-positive.
Uganda has not carried out capital punishment in many years.
Same-sex relations were already illegal in Uganda under a law that dates back to the British colonial period.
The new law introduces a 20-year sentence for "promoting" homosexuality.
"With a lot of humility, I thank my colleagues the Members of Parliament for withstanding all the pressure from bullies and doomsday conspiracy theorists in the interest of our country," parliament speaker Anita Among said.
However, Ugandan LGBT rights activist Clare Byarugaba said it was "a very dark and sad day for Uganda."
"We shall continue to fight this atrocious legislation through the judiciary until human rights for all are upheld," she said.
"We shall win, because as Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us, the moral arc of the universe always bends towards justice."
Law draws international condemnation
The new law has been widely condemned by rights groups and Western countries.
US President Joe Biden slammed the new legislation, branding it a "tragic violation of universal human rights." He threatened to cut US aid and investment in Uganda, calling for the law's immediate repeal.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the UN's HIV/AIDS program and the US AIDS relief program all expressed concern over the harmful impact of the newly signed law.
Amnesty International said that the law "flagrantly violates the human rights of LGBTI people in Uganda, including the right to a private life, protection against discrimination and the right to equal protection before the law."
The British Foreign Office said it was "appalled" by the new law, while Canada's foreign minister called it "abhorrent, cruel and unjust."
International partnerships under threat
The new law has also jeopardized Uganda's international standing.
"This law is contrary to international human rights law and to Uganda's obligations under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, including commitments on dignity and non-discrimination, and the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment," EU foreign policy chief Josip Borrell said in a statement.
"The Ugandan government has an obligation to protect all of its citizens and uphold their basic rights. Failure to do so will undermine relationships with international partners."
When Museveni signed a less restrictive anti-LGBTQ law in 2014, Western governments suspended some aid, reduced security cooperation with Uganda and imposed stronger visa restrictions on its citizens.
zc, sdi/kb (Reuters, AFP, AP)