Major donors of aid to Uganda including the United States and the European Union said on Friday they were closely examining a plan by the east African nation to introduce the death penalty for gay sex.
Seven months after Brunei sparked international outcry over plans to impose the death penalty for gay sex, Uganda on Thursday said it would vote on a similar measure in parliament in the coming weeks.
The European Union and the United States, which provide hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Uganda, said they opposed the death penalty and were closely following the matter.
“The U.S. government firmly opposes criminalisation of LGBTI individuals. We stand with Uganda’s LGBTI community and Ugandans of all backgrounds and beliefs to defend the dignity of all citizens,” said a U.S. State Department official.
Asked whether the United States was considering cutting funding, the official said: “At this point, there has been no credible information that the government of Uganda is seriously considering introducing this bill.”
The United States gives more than $970 million per year in security and development assistance to Uganda including providing anti-retroviral treatment for more than 990,000 HIV-positive Ugandans, according to the State Department.
African countries have some of the world’s most prohibitive laws governing homosexuality. Same-sex relationships are considered taboo and gay sex is a crime across most of the continent, with punishments ranging from imprisonment to death.
A Ugandan minister told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Thursday that introducing a bill to bring back a previous law colloquially known as “Kill the Gays” in Uganda would “curb a rise in unnatural sex” in the east African nation.
The bill is expected to be voted on before the end of the year.
Moves to restrict LGBT+ rights and criminalise gay sex in other countries have sparked protests and sanctions.
In May, Brunei was forced to extend a moratorium on the death penalty for gay sex after celebrities such as actor George Clooney and singer Elton John condemned a law allowing whipping and stoning to death.
The proposed Ugandan law could have implications for public health, said the Global Fund, a group of governments, civil society and private sector partners which invests around $4 billion a year to fight infectious diseases.
“Studies show that when gay people face discrimination they are less likely to access health services,” said a spokesperson for the Global Fund.
-By Mita Bhala, Additional reporting by Annie Banerji in Delhi, Editing by Tom Finn)