The law, proceeding through Uganda's Parliament and supported by some of its top leaders, would imprison anyone who knows of the existence of a gay or lesbian and fails to inform the police within 24 hours. It requires the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” – defined as any sexual act between gays or lesbians in which one person has the HIV virus.
The controversy is growing because Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is the chairman of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago, which opens on Friday with Stephen Harper joining the leaders of 52 other countries.
If it is raised at the summit, the issue has the potential to divide Commonwealth leaders, who hold deeply polarized views on homosexuality. A number of Commonwealth countries, including Canada and Britain, have liberal views on the subject, but many African and Caribbean nations are socially conservative and maintain laws on their books that criminalize homosexuality.
Activists are urging the Commonwealth to make it clear that it will suspend Uganda's membership if the law passes.
“Canada has clearly spoken out against human-rights violations committed against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation and we urge states to take all necessary measures to ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests, or detention.”