US President Biden and EU Call for Repeal of Uganda Anti-Gay Law
Protests against Uganda anti-homosexuality bill

There has been swift and widespread reaction to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which introduces severe punishment for homosexuality including the death penalty, being signed into law by that country’s president on Monday.

US President Joe Biden called for its “immediate repeal”, describing it as “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”. 


EU High Representative Josep Borrell warned that “the Ugandan government has an obligation to protect all of its citizens and uphold their basic rights. Failure to do so will undermine relationships with international partners.”

“This law is contrary to international human rights law and to Uganda’s obligations under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, including commitments on dignity and non-discrimination, and the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment,” added Borrell.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (the Global Fund), UNAIDS, and the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) issued a joint statement calling for the law to be reconsidered as it was harmful and jeopardised Uganda’s progress to stop HIV.

“Trust, confidentiality, and stigma-free engagement are essential for anyone seeking health care. LGBTQI+ people in Uganda increasingly fear for their safety and security, and increasing numbers of people are being discouraged from seeking vital health services for fear of attack, punishment and further marginalization,” said the organisations.

Previously, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk described the law as “probably among the worst of its kind in the world”.

“The Bill confuses consensual and non-consensual relations – the former should never be criminalized, whereas the latter requires evidence-based measures to end sexual violence in all its forms – including against children, no matter the gender or sexual orientation of the perpetrator,” said Türk.


Despite a warning by Ugandan  Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Kaafuzi Jackson Kargaba  that the law was open to a number of legal challenges, particularly with the inclusion of the death penalty in a country that has effectively ended the use of capital punishment, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni went ahead and made it law.

Museveni sent the Bill back to Parliament for its reconsideration in early May, but MPs voted to retain the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” – defined as sex with a child or disabled person or while living with HIV. The law also makes provision for a 20-year prison sentence for “knowingly promoting homosexuality”.

The Bill had the support of all but one of the MPs, many of whom have persistently equated homosexuals with paedophiles.

During the sitting, Speaker Anita Among took issue with Kargaba for pointing out the flaws in the earlier Bill and when he tried to explain his position in Parliament, she refused to allow him to speak.

“We have a culture to protect. The Western world will not come to rule Uganda,” said Among.

Ironically, however, US conservative Christian groups have been pushing for the legislation since 2014 when a “kill the gays” Bill was passed but never implemented after being overturned in a legal challenge, and Among has been part of the high-level government officials meeting with these groups, including the Arizona-based Family Watch International.

Ugandan gay activist Frank Mugisha, previously told Reuters that if the Act becomes law, he will challenge it in court on grounds that it was unconstitutional and violated various international treaties to which Uganda is a signatory. 

However, Mugisha also said that he feared mob violence and the mass arrest of LGBTQ people, adding that his community would be too afraid to seek treatment at health centres and warned of the mental health damage, including an increased risk of suicide.

“This legislation… is here to erase the entire existence of an LGBTQ person in Uganda, but also it radicalizes Ugandans into hatred of the LGBTQ community,” LGBTQ activist Frank Mugisha told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in a recent interview.

Since Parliament passed the Bill, hate crimes and violence against LGBTQ people have risen sharply, according to the Human Rights and Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), a legal aid organisation. In addition, police have arrested people on suspicion of being LGBTQ, according to HRAPF.


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