ENTEBBE, Uganda — Uganda's president signed an anti-gay bill Monday that provides for prison sentences ranging up to life behind bars, saying it is needed because the West is promoting homosexuality in Africa. Arrests of gays were expected as a result, one politician said.
The new law goes into effect immediately and calls for first-time offenders to be sentenced to 14 years in jail. It sets life imprisonment as the maximum penalty for "aggravated homosexuality," defined as repeated gay sex between consenting adults and acts involving a minor, a disabled person or in which one partner is infected with HIV.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned that the law would institutionalize discrimination and could encourage harassment and violence against gays.
The law is expected to send the country's beleaguered gay community further underground as the police try to implement it amid fevered anti-gay sentiment. At least six people have already been arrested over alleged homosexual offenses and more than a dozen have fled Uganda since lawmakers passed the bill in December, according to a prominent Ugandan gay activist, Pepe Julian Onziema.