May 30, 2023, 10:04am EDT

Uganda joins small group of countries penalizing LGBTQ+ people with death

Quin Karala, 29, a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTQ) community and a single mother of one poses for a picture with rainbow colours at the offices of Rella Women's Empowerment Program, for LGBTQ rights advocacy, after a Reuters interview in Kulambiro suburb of Kampala, Uganda April 4, 2023. REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa/File Photo
REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa

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The News

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed one of the world’s harshest anti-LGBTQ+ laws on Monday, punishing “aggravated homosexuality” with the death penalty and threatening 20 years in prison for “promoting” homosexuality.

The move makes Uganda one of nine countries around the world that threaten LGBTQ+ people with the death penalty, joining Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Mauritania, and Somalia, according to the LGBTQ+ rights website Equaldex.

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Know More

The law has drawn international condemnation. And Uganda now faces possible sanctions: The U.S. is mulling restricting visa access to Ugandan officials, reducing aid, and removing access to a preferential trade deal.

Earlier this year, Uganda’s Parliament voted in favor of legislation that made it illegal to identify as LGBTQ+, with the possibility of life imprisonment for doing so. Same-sex relations were already criminalized.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas, who last year voted against the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill codifying same-sex marriages into law, tweeted that Uganda’s new law is “horrific & wrong.”


Museveni has called homosexuality a “deviation from normal,” and previously urged lawmakers to resist “imperialist” pressure from countries with a favorable view of same-sex relationships.

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The View From Iran

Iran punishes homosexuality with death in some cases, and also flogging, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

Last year, Iran persecuted two female LGBTQ+ rights campaigners and sentenced them to execution, a move that was condemned by the United Nations. The charges against the two women included their speech and actions promoting LGBTQ+ equality, and trafficking, for their work helping LGBTQ-identifying individuals leave the country.

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The View From Mauritania

Homosexual acts are punishable by death under Sharia law in Mauritania. However, according to LGBTQ-focused news site Pink News, no known executions were carried out between 2010 and 2020.

In 2020, 10 men were arrested and jailed for taking part in a traditional wedding ceremony in the country.