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UN and Amnesty international urge Ugandan president to reject anti-LGBTQ law

UN and Amnesty international urge Ugandan president to reject anti-LGBTQ law
Ugandans take part in the 3rd Annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender ...   -  
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Rebecca Vassie/AP


The United Nations and the NGO Amnesty International on Wednesday called on Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to reject an anti-homosexuality law passed by parliament Tuesday night, calling it "appalling.

The Ugandan parliament voted in a turbulent session on Tuesday night to pass a law that would impose severe penalties on people who engage in homosexual relations.

MPs significantly amended the original text, which provided for up to 10 years in prison for anyone engaging in homosexual acts or claiming to be LGBTQ+, in a country where homosexuality was already illegal.

The extent of the new penalties under the law was not immediately known.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, called on Museveni on Wednesday not to enact the law.

"The passage of this discriminatory text -probably the worst of its kind in the world-- is a deeply troubling development," he said in a statement.

"If signed into law by the president, (this law) will make lesbians, gays and bisexuals criminals in Uganda simply by existing (...). It could give carte blanche to the systematic violation of almost all their human rights," he added.

This ambiguous, vaguely worded law criminalizes even those who "promote" homosexuality," Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty's director for East and Southern Africa, said in a statement.

Fox Odoi-Oywelowo, an elected member of the National Resistance Movement, President Museveni's party, spoke out against the text. The MP told AFP that under the final version of the legislation, offenders would face life imprisonment or even the death penalty for "aggravated" offences.

Amnesty said Museveni should "urgently veto this appalling law", adding that it would "institutionalize discrimination, hatred and prejudice" against the LGBTQ+ community.

Debates on the bill in parliament have been peppered with homophobic language, with Museveni himself referring to homosexuals as "deviant" people last week.

However, the 78-year-old leader has often said that the issue is not a priority for him and that he prefers to maintain good relations with his Western donors and investors.

- "Strict anti-homosexuality legislation" -

Uganda has strict anti-homosexuality legislation - a legacy of colonial laws - but since independence from the United Kingdom in 1962, there have been no prosecutions for consensual homosexual acts.

Intolerance of homosexuality is common in Uganda, where the passage of the law was welcomed by some.

"We are very happy as citizens of Uganda. Culturally we don't accept...homosexuality, lesbianism, LGBTQ. We can't," Abdu Mukasa, a 54-year-old resident, told AFP. "We were created by God. God created man and woman. And we can't accept one sex to go with the same sex," he added.

In 2014, a Ugandan court blocked a bill, approved by MPs and signed by President Museveni, to punish homosexual relations with life imprisonment.

The bill caused an uproar beyond Uganda's borders, with some wealthy countries suspending aid after it was introduced in parliament.

Last week, police announced the arrest of six men for "practicing homosexuality" in Jinja (south). Six more men were arrested on the same charge on Sunday, police said.

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