Lawmakers in Uganda have passed a sweeping anti-gay law that can bring punishments as severe as the death penalty — the culmination of a long-running campaign to criminalize homosexuality and target L.G.B.T.Q. people in the conservative nation in East Africa.
The law, which was passed late on Tuesday night after more than seven hours of discussion and amendments, calls for a life sentence for anyone engaging in gay sex. Even attempting to have same-sex relations would be met with a seven-year prison term.
The death penalty would be applied to people convicted of “aggravated homosexuality,” a sweeping term defined in the law as homosexual acts committed by anyone infected with H.I.V. or involving children, disabled people or anyone drugged against their will.
The parliamentary vote in Uganda caps a struggle over gay rights in Uganda that has drawn international attention for nearly 15 years. It comes as anti-gay policies and discrimination have been on the rise in several African nations, including Kenya, Ghana and Zambia.
The legislation in Uganda, called the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, also imposes a penalty of up to 1 billion Ugandan shillings, about $264,000, on any entity convicted of promoting homosexuality. People under 18 who are convicted of engaging in homosexuality face up to three years in prison, along with a period of “rehabilitation.”
“This house will continue to pass laws that recognize, protect and safeguard the sovereignty, morals and cultures of this country,” Anita Annet Among, the speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, said after legislators finished voting.
The bill will now go to President Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s leader for nearly four decades, who has been an outspoken driver of anti-gay measures. He has in the past accused gay people of undermining the stability of Uganda, and in recent weeks called them “deviants.”
Mr. Museveni is also a close Western ally whose nation receives almost a billion dollars a year in development aid from the United States. He has pressed for anti-gay measures despite exhortations by Western nations to respect the rights of L.G.B.T.Q. citizens and in defiance of threats to cut aid.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken urged the Ugandan government “to strongly reconsider the implementation of this legislation,” saying that it would undermine the rights of Ugandans and “could reverse gains” in the fight against H.I.V. and AIDS.
The bill’s passing was sharply criticized by rights groups and by a few lawmakers in Uganda who said that it infringed on the freedoms of Ugandans and further eroded the rights of gay people.
Volker Türk, the United Nations human rights chief, called the anti-gay law “probably among the worst of its kind in the world” and said that it could “serve to incite people against each other.”
The bill was introduced in early March by the lawmaker Asuman Basalirwa, who has said that homosexuality threatens family values and the safety of Ugandan children. Mr. Basalirwa did not immediately respond to an interview request.
In Uganda, a country of about 46 million people — about 85 percent Christian and 15 percent Muslim — religious leaders have jointly inveighed against homosexuality and what they say is its impact on the sanctity of family and children. Many religious leaders say that homosexuality is a Western import and have held protests and rallies urging legislators to introduce laws that would harshly penalize gay people.
But even as anti-gay sentiment in Uganda has become pervasive, L.G.B.T.Q. people have become more public, mobilizing to defeat anti-gay legislation in court, holding small Pride parades, representing Uganda in international gay events and creating support groups for parents of gay children.
The new laws, activists say, will aggravate the challenges already facing gay Ugandans.
The authorities have in recent years been regularly rounding up people whom they suspect of being gay or lesbian and arresting people at gay-friendly bars on what rights groups say are fabricated drug charges. The authorities have also raided and shut down the country’s only gay film festival.
Religious leaders and educators have also recently been warning, baselessly, of a plot to recruit schoolchildren into homosexuality. And last month, a major Ugandan military officer urged health officials not to treat homosexuals in government health centers.
Last year, the authorities also closed down Sexual Minorities Uganda, an organization that supported L.G.B.T.Q. people in the country.
Tigere Chagutah, the regional director for eastern and southern Africa at Amnesty International, called the bill “deeply repressive legislation” that would institutionalize hatred and prejudice. The president, he said in an emailed statement, “must urgently veto this appalling legislation, which was passed following a rushed vote.”
While the vote happened quickly, the drive to outlaw homosexuality in Uganda has been long-running, drawing encouragement from evangelical Christians in the United States and international outrage from gay people and human rights advocates.
The legislation passed on Tuesday was a revised version of a harsh 2014 law signed by Mr. Museveni that punished “aggravated homosexuality” with life in prison.
But the Ugandan Constitutional Court nullified the law that same year, saying that it had been passed in Parliament without the necessary quorum.
In contrast, for the vote on Tuesday night, lawmakers filled parliamentary chambers, with a majority of those present voting for the bill.
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