A 20-year-old Ugandan man has become the first individual in the country to be indicted on charges of "aggravated homosexuality," a criminal offense carrying the possibility of capital punishment as per the recently enacted anti-gay legislation, according to both prosecutors and the defendant's legal counsel.
Despite international pressure from Western governments and human rights organizations, Uganda introduced one of the world's strictest statutes against the LGBT community in May. The legislation stipulates a sentence of life imprisonment for consensual same-sex relations.
In instances deemed "aggravated," including repeated offenses, same-sex acts resulting in terminal illness transmission, or engaging in such acts with a minor, elderly person, or an individual with disabilities, the death penalty can be imposed.
As stated in a charge document reviewed by Reuters, the accused was formally charged with aggravated homosexuality on August 18 after reportedly engaging in "illicit sexual activity" with a 41-year-old man. The specifics that warranted the classification as "aggravated" were not explicitly outlined.
Jacqueline Okui, spokesperson for the office of the director of public prosecutions, affirmed that the defendant was apprised of the capital charge within a Magistrate's Court on August 18, given the charge's jurisdiction within the High Court.
The defendant was subsequently remanded. Okui refrained from providing further details about the ongoing case and stated that no prior instances of aggravated homosexuality charges were within her knowledge.
Attorney Justine Balya, representing the defendant, expressed her belief in the unconstitutionality of the entire law. While legal challenges have been initiated, the judiciary has yet to engage with the matter. Balya indicated that her client is the inaugural case of prosecution for aggravated homosexuality and declined to delve into case particulars.
Though Uganda has not implemented capital punishment for nearly two decades, the legal provision remains and President Yoweri Museveni had raised the prospect of resuming executions in 2018 to address rising criminality.
The recent enactment of the law prompted international censure and threats of sanctions. Subsequently, the World Bank suspended new public funding for Uganda in response. The United States additionally imposed visa constraints on select Ugandan officials, and President Joe Biden initiated a review of U.S. assistance to the nation.