Campaigners have condemned Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni for signing the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law, describing it as a “flagrant breach of human rights”.
President Museveni blamed the West over his decision to sign the bill.
In response, Edwin Sesange, from the UK based African LGBTI Out & Proud Diamond Group told PinkNews.co.uk: “I am saddened by the news, but however I appeal to the entire Ugandan community not turn against their fellow LGBTI Ugandans.
“We are Ugandans no matter our sexual and gender identities.
“We are calling upon the entire LGBTI community and those perceived to be promoters of homosexuality to stay calm and think of their safety first as we are preparing to challenge this law and other anti-gay laws in Uganda through peaceful means that will not have any effect on fellow Ugandans.
“This law has been engineered and championed by opinions, lies and hatred but we will fight it with facts, respect and love for other. We are calling upon the entire international community to join us in this struggle.”
British based charity AIDS Alliance warned that President Museveni’s decision to sign the bill would gravely impact on the people that it helps in Uganda.
“An adverse legal environment where most at risk groups will be criminalised for their behaviour and made a target for harassment and violence is not the answer, nor is creating a culture of fear among healthcare providers,” said Enrique Restoy, senior advisor on human rights at the Alliance.
“Driving LGBT communities away from services endangers not only them but also the Ugandan population at large. Museveni will literally have blood on his hands.”
Mr Restoy continued: “Signing the bill goes against all the scientific evidence of the impact of negative legal discrimination on the AIDS response and its passage into law has direct implications for access to healthcare services for groups most at risk of the HIV epidemic.
“It is also a flagrant breach of the human rights of Uganda’s citizens and sends out an unacceptable message to the rest of the world, in particular countries where we are already seeing a rise in violent homophobia.
“Diplomatic missions, including the UK, USA and EU, should right now be considering their response.
“Remaining silent in the face of such a threat to both public health and to the personal safety of individuals is simply not an option.”
The new law punishes repeat offenders with 14 years in jail, and allows life imprisonment as the penalty for acts of “aggravated homosexuality”.
It 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.
Lesbians are covered by the bill for the first time.