Jackson Mukasa and Kim Mukisa attend Buganda Road Magistrates Court in Kampala (Photo: AP Photo/Rebecca Vassie)
Kim Mukisa and Jackson Mukasa appeared before a magistrate's court today in Kampala, Uganda. The charge? Engaging in gay sex.
Mukisa and Mukasa are the first Ugandans to face a trial under a new law passed in February that introduced harsh new penalties for engaging in homosexual sex.
AP reports that the two were arrested in January after they were fleeing an angry mob. Their lawyer, Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, says they've been charged with "carnal knowledge against the order of nature," and that prosecutors have a number of witnesses lined up to testify against them.
The new law expands on pre-existing anti-gay laws in Uganda, imposing a 14-year sentence for first-time offenders. Those found guilty of "aggravated homosexuality" — which includes repeated gay sex between consenting adults as well as homosexual acts where one partner is a minor, disabled person or person with HIV — will face a life sentence. The bill had originally called for the death penalty, but that was removed following international condemnation.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni had at first refused to support the law on the grounds that homosexuals were "abnormal people" who were "born with the disorientation of being attracted to the same sex" — and therefore it was "wrong to punish somebody on account of being born abnormal." But after seeking "scientific" opinions from experts in the country, he later wrote in a blog post, his views changed. "Their unanimous conclusion was that homosexuality, contrary to my earlier thinking, was behavioural and not genetic," he wrote in a blog post on his official website. "It was learnt and could be unlearnt."
The law been the subject of strong international condemnation. John Baird, Canada's foreign affairs minister, denounced the law in February, saying, “Canada is extremely disappointed that President Museveni has signed this piece of legislation, which will make homosexuality punishable with life imprisonment. We strongly urge the President to protect the human rights of all Ugandans regardless of their sexual orientation, in accordance with Uganda’s constitution."
According to AP, Ugandan gay rights activists say that many gay people have fled the country or gone underground following the passage of the law.
Both Mukisa and Mukasa are expected to be released on bail before their trial.