The president of Uganda promulgated this Monday a controversial law against the LGBTQ+ communitythat even penalizes same-sex relationships with death, which sparked criticism from humanitarian organizations, Western governments and was described as one of the most repressive in the world.
“The President Passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023”announced the office of the president, Yoweri Museveni, in a brief statement on his Twitter account.
The law, criticized by the UN and countries like the United States, was approved on March 21 in Parliament and was defended by legislators with the pretext that these measures protect the national culture and its values.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turkdescribed the text as “discriminatory” and expressed his “dismay” at the enactment of this “draconian” legislation.
Türk also stated that the law opposes “the Constitution and international treaties” and opens ways for there to be “systematic violations of the rights of LGBTIQ+ people.”
At the end of April, President Museveni asked parliamentarians to re-examine the text, urging them to specify that It is not a crime to “be homosexual”, but that relationships between people of the same gender are penalized, that is to say, that sexual orientation will not be a crime, but “acts”, which can be punished with life imprisonment.
The new law allows the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”, for cases of sexual relations involving persons infected with HIV and minors; and is punishable by up to 14 years in prison for the charge of “aggravated attempted homosexuality.”
Homosexuality is criminalized in the East African country as a “crime against the order of nature”, since the laws that governed during colonization, but since independence in 1962 there has never been a conviction for consensual sexual acts between people of the same gender.
The legislation enjoys broad public support in Uganda, a predominantly Christian country, where people are very religious and the LGBTIQ+ community suffers a lot of discrimination.
The debate on the law in Parliament was marked by the use of homophobic insults and the president himself referred to people who are attracted to others of the same gender as “perverted”, reported the AFP news agency.
“As the Parliament of Uganda, we took into account the concerns of our people and legislated to protect the sanctity of the family (…). We stood firm to defend the culture, values and aspirations of our people,” said the Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among.
Organizations accused of encouraging same-sex relationships can be banned for ten years, according to the rule.
Reactions against the anti-homosexual law
The reactions of civil society were silenced in a country where Museveni has ruled with an iron fist since 1986.
Internationally, the bill sparked outrage. The president of United StatesJoe Bidensaid today that the law constitutes a “tragic violation” of human rights and should be repealed.
A White House statement detailed that Biden asked the National Security Council to review “the United States’ commitments to Uganda in all its aspects,” including assistance in the fight against AIDS and other aid and investments.
Washington will study the possibility of imposing sanctions on Uganda and restricting the entry into the United States of Ugandans implicated in human rights abuses or corruption, according to the statement.
The head of diplomacy of the European Union (EU), Josep Borrell, said on Twitter that the law was “deplorable”. “Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s promulgation of the anti-homosexuality law is deplorable. This law is contrary to human rights,” Borrell wrote.
“The Ugandan government has an obligation to protect all its citizens and uphold their fundamental rights. Failure to do so will jeopardize relations with its international partners,” he added.
The law was also criticized during its debate for International Amnestywhich described it as “deeply repressive”.
Humanitarian organizations view the new norm with concern, especially in terms of health care. “Uganda’s progress in its fight against HIV is seriously jeopardized,” the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the US agency Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS said in a statement. USAID).
The statement warned about the interference of the law on education and access to health and AIDS prevention services. In Africa, homosexuality is a crime in more than 30 of the 54 countries on the continent.