Uganda’s parliament has passed a law that makes some homosexual acts punishable by life in prison.
The bill, first introduced to the country’s parliament in 2009, initially proposed the death penalty.
But it has now been amended to give jail terms – including life – for convictions of “aggravated homosexuality”.
Widespread criticism of the law, and resistance from the executive which is wary of antagonising western donors, stalled its passage. But parliament has also been under pressure to push it through, especially from mainstream and evangelical churches.
Germany cut off aid to Uganda late last year citing the bill as one of its concerns.
Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda. But the new law prohibits the “promotion” of gay rights and punishes anyone who “funds”, “sponsors” or “abets” homosexuality.
Homosexuality is taboo in many African countries. It is illegal in 37 nations on the continent, and activists say few Africans are openly gay, fearing imprisonment, violence and losing their jobs.
Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), said he would try to rally rights activists to have the law blocked in the courts.
The president must sign any bill passed in parliament before it becomes law.
“We in the gay community are in a panic,” Mugisha told Reuters. “People are afraid of walking in the streets, because they know how Ugandans like to take the law into their own hands.”