The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has condemned the Ugandan Parliament for passing its Anti-Homosexuality Bill, warning it will ”damage the rights of people belonging to minority groups, and Uganda’s international reputation.”

On Friday, an FCO spokesperson said to PinkNews.co.uk: “The UK Government remains committed to ensuring that all LGBT people around the world are free to live their lives in a safe and just environment.

“We’re concerned about the impact of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill on human rights in Uganda and fear the bill will damage the rights of people belonging to minority groups, and Uganda’s international reputation.

“UK has a close and strong partnership with Uganda, but where there are issues of concern we will raise them. The UK, along with our international partners, will continue to press the Government of Uganda to defend human rights for all, without discrimination on any grounds.

“The UK works proactively through Embassies and High Commissions and through international organisations, including the Commonwealth, to promote tolerance and non-discrimination against LGBT people and to address punitive laws that criminalise homosexuality.”

The spokesperson added: “It is wrong for LGBT groups to continue to suffer persecution, violence and discrimination.  We expect Uganda to live up to the values where all its citizens are free to live their lives in a safe and just society.

“We have raised our concerns about the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill with the Ugandan Government at the highest levels. The Foreign Secretary raised this issue with the Foreign Minister of Uganda in the margins of the Somalia Conference on 7 May 2013.

“The Parliamentary under Secretary of State for the Department for International Development, Lynne Featherstone, discussed LGBT rights during her visit to Uganda on 24 October 2013.”

On Friday, MPs in Uganda passed legislation to toughen the punishment for same-sex sexual activity, including life imprisonment for all same-sex sexual behaviour – not just the current life tariff for anal intercourse. 

The bill increases the penalty for other acts – including mere sexual touching – from seven years to life imprisonment.

Promoting homosexuality and aiding and abetting others to commit same-sex acts will be punishable by five to seven years in jail.

A person in authority – gay or heterosexual – who fails to report violators to the police within 24 hours will be sentenced to three years behind bars.

Campaigners are calling on Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni not to sign the bill into law.

Activists believe the issue of foreign aid could be weighing on President Museveni’s mind, but they also recognise the president supports the spirit of the bill.

It is also possible for parliamentary supporters of the bill to bypass the need for presidential approval if a further vote is tabled. They require a two-thirds majority.

UK Labour MP Diane Abbott has condemned the Ugandan Parliament’s decision.

She told PinkNews.co.uk: “This really is dreadful news that has come from Uganda today, especially as it comes just days after the death of Nelson Mandela, who stood up for the rights of all including the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.”

Conservative MP Nigel Evans also criticised Ugandan MPs who had voted for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Speaking on behalf of the Kaleidoscope Trust, Assistant Director Alistair Stewart called it “a terrible day for human rights.”