Last updated on May 29, 2023
On May 29, 2023, it was announced that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni had signed into law one of the most draconian anti-LGBTQ+ laws ever. The Ugandan parliament had twice previously passed this bill that puts the lives of LGBTQ+ Ugandans at great risk by an overwhelming majority, first on March 21 and then as amended on May 2.
The 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Act will significantly restrict the ability of LGBTQ+ Ugandans to participate in public life and engage in advocacy. The law outlaws the “promotion of homosexuality” and further expands the “offense of homosexuality.” This legislation will create a chilling effect on freedom of speech, expression, and association and will curtail liberty, privacy, and equality.
LGBTQ+ Ugandans already faced 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.
The “offense of homosexuality,” sexual acts between persons of the same sex, is punishable by life imprisonment without the possibility of release. Attempting the “offense of homosexuality” is punishable by 10 years of imprisonment.
The “offense of aggravated homosexuality” is punishable by death. Attempting the “offense of aggravated homosexuality” is punishable by 14 years of imprisonment.
The law criminalizes the “promotion of homosexuality” by up to twenty years of imprisonment. The license of a business, association, or NGO could be suspended for up to 10 years or be canceled if they are found guilty of “promoting homosexuality.” This directly targets LGBTQ+ organizations, organizations run by LGBTQ+ people, and organizations providing services to the LGBTQ+ community.
Keeping a room or a house with the purpose of “facilitating the commission of the offense of homosexuality” is criminalized under this law by up to 7 years of imprisonment. The language of the law is vague and ambiguous enough that it could criminalize providing housing for LGBTIQ+ persons and encourage discriminatory practices by landlords and hotel owners.
Attempting to “contract, solemnize or witness” a same-sex marriage whether the union is “formal or informal” would carry a maximum penalty of 10 years of imprisonment.
The courts are given the power to “rehabilitate” those convicted of “offenses of homosexuality,” suggesting that the courts have the power to require participation in so-called conversion therapy programs.1
Support LGBTQ+ Organizations Inside and Outside of Uganda
These organizations are raising funds to support LGBTQ+ people inside Uganda, as well as LGBTQ refugees who have fled to neighboring countries.
Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) - An HRC partner, SMUG is a prominent LGBTQ+ advocacy organization based in Kampala, Uganda. Donate.
Universal Coalition of Affirming Africans Uganda (UCAA - UG) - An HRC partner, UCAA - UG human rights organization which seeks to advocate for the respect of human rights of the most marginalized with specific focus on LGBTQ+ people, Women and Persons Living with Disabilities in Uganda using a faith-based approach. Donate.
Transgender Equality Uganda - An HRC partner, Transgender Equality Uganda promotes awareness about trans women and transgender sex workers in Uganda, while addressing their human, health, and economic rights. Donate.
GBGMC, UKPC, and SMUG Emergency Fund: Global Black Gay Men Connect, in collaboration with Uganda Key Populations Consortium and Sexual Minorities Uganda, launched an Emergency Response Fund to support LGBTQI Ugandans. Donate.
*All Out is a global LGBTQ+ advocacy organization that works closely with partners to come up with inspiring ways for the global community to take action.
1 “A Legal and Human Rights Analysis of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2023 As Enacted By Parliament,” Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum, March 29, 2023.