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Uganda lawmakers amend controversial anti-gay law but death penalty for HIV positive sex remains

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Uganda’s parliament has passed an amended version of the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023 on Tuesday.

Under the new proposed bill, homosexual conduct will still be illegal, but identifying as homosexual without conducting in homosexual acts will not be outlawed. 

The bill, however, retains its more extreme elements, including the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” which includes sex with a minor, having sex while HIV positive and incest.

The bill, which originally proposed 20 years imprisonment for even identifying as LGBTQ+, was returned to parliament by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni in late April.

Museveni asked lawmakers to reconsider and clarify certain aspects of the bill. 

The new bill has made amendments to distinguish between those who identify or appear to be LGBTQ+ and those who actually engage in homosexual acts. Same-sex relations are already illegal in Uganda and warrant a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The bill previously suggested imprisoning those who identify as LGBTQ+, but now states that those who do not act on their “deviant proclivity” will not be punished by law.

Lawmakers also agreed to a proposed amendment that would change the bill’s decree of a “duty to report” acts of homosexuality.

Under the amended bill, individuals are now only legally required to report such acts if they are “against children and vulnerable people,” legislator Robina Gureme Rwakoojo confirmed in parliament. 

The punishment for not reporting this is a fine or imprisonment for six months, the bill states.

Only one lawmaker, legislator Fox Odoi-Oywelowo, spoke out against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023 in Parliament on Tuesday, describing it as a breach of human rights.

Sign it or veto it

The bill will now be returned to President Museveni who will decide whether to sign it into law or veto it.

Scientists and academics had urged Museveni to veto the bill, which has been widely condemned by Western nations and human rights organizations.

But the Ugandan leader does not oppose the bill and plans to sign it into law soon, the country’s ruling party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), said last month.

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