KAMPALA – Ugandan lawmakers on Tuesday passed a new version of an anti-gay bill to remove a clause that appeared to criminalize identifying as LGBTQ.
President Yoweri Museveni returned the bill last month to the national assembly, asking for changes that would differentiate between identifying as LGBTQ and actually engaging in homosexual acts.
Homosexuality was already illegal in the East African country under a colonial-era law criminalizing sexual activity “against the order of nature.” The punishment for that offense is life imprisonment.
The legislation prescribes the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality," which is defined as cases of sexual relations involving a minor and other categories of vulnerable people, or when the perpetrator is infected with HIV.
A suspect convicted of “attempted aggravated homosexuality” can be imprisoned for up to 14 years, in prison, and the offense of “attempted homosexuality” is punishable by up to 10 years, according to the bill.
Although the law would no longer criminalize individuals who identify as LGBTQ, the revised version still allows prison sentences of up to 20 years for advocating or promoting the rights of LGBTQ people.
The bill passed by lawmakers on Tuesday now returns to the president, who can sign or veto it. It was not immediately clear what other changes lawmakers made during their lengthy plenary session in the capital, Kampala.
Museveni is under pressure from the international community to veto the legislation.
The U.S. has warned of economic consequences if the legislation is enacted. A group of U.N. experts described the bill previously approved by lawmakers as “an egregious violation of human rights,” while Amnesty International called it “draconian and overly broad."
Anti-gay sentiment in Uganda has grown in recent weeks amid news coverage alleging sodomy in boarding schools, including a prestigious one for boys where a parent accused a teacher of abusing her son.
The February decision of the Church of England's national assembly to continue banning church weddings for the same-sex couples while allowing priests to bless same-sex marriages and civil partnerships angered many in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa.
Homosexuality is criminalized in more than 30 of Africa’s 54 countries. Some Africans see it as behavior imported from abroad and not a sexual orientation.