Anti-LGBTQ+ Extremism Reaches New Levels in Uganda with Signing of New Law Backed by Far-Right U.S. Figures

by HRC Staff

HRC President Stands in Solidarity with LGBTQ+ Ugandans now living under one of the most draconian anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the world

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, Ugandan President Museveni signed a law passed by Parliament, first on March 21 and amended on May 2, that severely and drastically restricts the rights of LGBTQ+ Ugandans to engage in public life or advocacy. The bill further expands the “offense of homosexuality” and outlaws the “promotion of homosexuality.” This new law, on top of Uganda’s already existing criminalization law, will create a chilling effect on freedom of speech, expression, and association and will curtail liberty, privacy, and equality. The bill will also put health care out of reach for LGBTQ+ Ugandans, putting lives at great risk.

In response, Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson released the following statement:

This new law to restrict the rights of LGBTQ+ Ugandans is by far the most horrific display of bigotry we have seen in recent memory in Uganda, and in all of Africa. The Ugandan Parliament should be ashamed of themselves for considering this draconian law that erases the internationally recognized rights of LGBTQ+ Ugandans, and President Museveni should be condemned for not using the full power of his position to stop it. We at the Human Rights Campaign stand in solidarity with human rights defenders and the LGBTQ+ community in Uganda.
This law will have a ripple effect across the continent, as we are seeing similar laws being introduced, most recently in Kenya, with many being promoted by the same forces spreading anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in the United States. Additionally, we have seen this law’s chilling effects before it was even passed: individuals have already been reported to officials for being LGBTQ+, despite breaking no laws. We must do everything in our power to ensure that this decision is reversed. We condemn this attack on LGBTQ+ lives to the fullest extent. No person or authority should have the right to decide who a person loves or how they identify.

This bill will also have far-reaching ramifications on the health of Ugandans: although the bill was only just passed, American officials have already placed an indefinite pause on finalizing Uganda’s Country Operational Plan for 2023 under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in order to assess the effects that this new law will have on the program. The Anti-Homosexuality Act directly endangers the positive effects that PEPFAR - long considered one of the most effective programs in U.S. foreign assistance and the largest source of funding for LGBTQ+ organizations worldwide - has had in Uganda.

Extremist groups with ties to the United States have fought hard in Uganda and other African nations for these hard-line anti-LGBTQ+ policies, seeking to export the same rhetoric overseas that they have incubated here. Reporting from Media Matters for America and other groups have exposed this connection, a sustained attempt to export anti-LGBTQ+ hate from America to other parts of the world, and specifically called out organizations like the Heritage Foundation and Family Watch International as prominent figures.

LGBTQ+ Ugandans already face high levels of discrimination and violence. Under the 1950 colonial-era Ugandan Penal Code, consensual same-sex sexual activity is criminalized with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Similar iterations of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill were introduced by Parliament in 2010 and 2014. In 2010, after significant international pressure, the bill was held for further discussion and did not pass when re-introduced in 2012. In 2014, the bill was passed by parliament but was subsequently overturned by the courts on technical grounds. Learn more about this law at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s resource page on Uganda.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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