But Archbishop Kaziimba Renews Opposition to Capital Punishment
By Douglas LeBlanc
The Anglican Church of Uganda has again welcomed the nation’s bluntly named Anti-Homosexuality Act, and has reiterated its opposition to capital punishment. The law permits the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” which it defines as sex involving a minor, a person who has HIV, or a person who has a disability.
The bill’s proposer, Asuman Basalirwa, said the law allows for, but does not require, the death penalty.
“What the law creates is a maximum sentence, and therefore the courts can decide not to impose the maximum sentence of death,” Basalirwa said. “Parliament cannot create death as a mandatory sentence, because then you take away the latitude of the courts to exercise the discretion.”
Archbishop Stephen Samuel Kaziimba Mugalu endorsed the bill this year when parliament approved it and sent it to President Yoweri Museveni for his consideration. The president and parliament negotiated the bill to its final state, which the president signed on May 26.
Archbishop Kaziimba restated the church’s rejection of capital punishment, and endorsed life imprisonment.
“As expressed in our responses to earlier versions of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill over the last fifteen years, the Church of Uganda supports life and, in principle, does not support the death penalty,” he said. “As grievous as aggravated defilement and aggravated homosexuality are, we do not support the death penalty for those crimes, and continue to recommend life imprisonment instead.”
Kaziimba’s predecessor, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, said in 2014 that the Church of Uganda was encouraged when parliament discussed removing the death penalty from the law.
The church also said in 2009, during Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi’s tenure, that it “upholds the sanctity of life and cannot support the death penalty.”
The archbishop broadened his remarks beyond homosexuality.
“Fornication, defilement, and adultery are also attacking our families, our souls, and our country. Many of the people loudly protesting against homosexuality are quietly fornicating or betraying their spouse through gender-based violence, adultery, or defiling their own children,” he said.
Public discussion of the bill often equates to debating whether any nation may treat same-sex sexual behavior as criminal. Nearly half of African nations do this, whether the law is grounded in Christian or Muslim concepts.
That still leaves plenty of Ugandan law to be debated, usually on whether people should be imprisoned, much less for life, based on consensual sex between adults. Uganda’s law rejects consent as a defense.
President Joe Biden condemned Uganda’s law on several points.
“The enactment of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act is a tragic violation of universal human rights — one that is not worthy of the Ugandan people, and one that jeopardizes the prospects of critical economic growth for the entire country. I join with people around the world — including many in Uganda — in calling for its immediate repeal. No one should have to live in constant fear for their life or being subjected to violence and discrimination. It is wrong,” he said May 29.
“Since the Anti-Homosexuality Act was introduced, reports of violence and discrimination targeting Ugandans who are or are perceived to be LGBTQI+ are on the rise. Innocent Ugandans now fear going to hospitals, clinics, or other establishments to receive life-saving medical care, lest they be targeted by hateful reprisals. Some have been evicted from their homes or fired from their jobs. And the prospect of graver threats — including lengthy prison sentences, violence, abuse — threatens any number of Ugandans who want nothing more than to live their lives in safety and freedom.”
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz agrees with critics of Uganda’s law. “Any law criminalizing homosexuality or imposing the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’ is grotesque & an abomination,” Cruz tweeted on May 29. “ALL civilized nations should join together in condemning this human rights abuse.”