First gay trial under new laws starts in Uganda

Rodney Muhumuza

A couple arrested in January are the first homosexuals to be prosecuted since President Yoweri Museveni passed stringent new anti-gay laws.

Scores of Ugandan homosexuals have gone underground or fled the country since the new law was enacted. (Reuters)

A Ugandan court on Wednesday began hearing the case against two Ugandans accused of engaging in gay sex, the first trial of homosexuals in the country since a severe anti-gay law was enacted in February. 

The detained couple appeared before a magistrate’s court in the Ugandan capital of Kampala to apply for bail after prosecutors said they had enough evidence to proceed with the case. 

Ugandan police arrested the couple in January as they fled an angry mob, said local watchdog the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum. 

Prosecutors have lined up several witnesses to testify against the two, who have been charged with engaging in sex acts “against the order of nature”, said their lawyer, Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi. 

Uganda has had anti-gay legislation since the colonial era, but President Yoweri Museveni enacted a law in February that strengthened criminal penalties for having gay sex. 

Gay leaders report that scores of Ugandan homosexuals have gone underground or fled the country since the new law was enacted. 

The law has been widely criticised in the West as draconian and unnecessary in a country where homosexuality had long been criminalised. 

In signing the Bill, Museveni said he wanted to deter Western groups from promoting homosexuality in the East African country. 

Some Western countries have since withheld or cut aid to Uganda over the law, urging the country’s legislators to repeal it. 

Ugandan government officials have described Western pressure over the bill as blackmail. – Sapa-AP

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