On the 26th of May, the President of Uganda signed the Anti-Homosexuality Law.
Just a few days later, on the 30th of May, the law came into force after it was publicised in the Ugandan Gazette, affecting thousands of LGBTIQ+ people across the country.
The law, among other human rights violations, criminalises homosexuality with death penalty and life in prison, the law criminalises any landlords who offer houses to LGBTIQ+ people, it criminalises minors who come out as LGBTIQ+ for up to 3 years and it also criminalises organisations and individuals or service providers who will offer support to the LGBTIQ+ community.
The passing of this law is a clear violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that all individuals are entitled to freedom from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and is a violation of several international treaties that Uganda is signatories to. It is also a step backwards for Uganda, which had already started to criminalise and persecute LGBTIQ+ people in recent years.
The situation of the LGBTIQ+ community has long been worrying and the discrimination and persecution didn’t start yesterday.
In 2019, the police and other security agencies raided the offices of our organisation, Let’s Walk Uganda, and arrested 16 LGBTIQ+ community members including the staff. We have had several unsolved murders of LGBTIQ+ activists, like the killing of David Kato and Brian Wasswa. Transgender people have been attacked and undressed, and their details have been recorded at the hands of the police, among many other violations that have happened even before the law was passed. The new is undoubtedly going to pour fuel on the already existing fire.
As we speak, we have registered an unprecedented increase in the numbers of LGBTIQ+ people who are now homeless. More and more of them are being subjected to blackmail. Transgender attacks have increased.
We are preparing to see an increase in the number of HIV infections because all access safe sex material, like condoms and lubricants or HIV preventive drugs like pep and prep, for this community have been removed. For those community members who have been receiving lifesaving antiretrovirals (ARVs), they can no longer access these drugs with ease. We will soon see a human rights catastrophe in Uganda.
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The draconian law has been condemned by international leaders including the President of the United States of America. Countries, like the USA, have already passed some sanctions against Ugandan government including visa bans on the government officials who supported the law.
It is time for the UK government and UK INGOs to take concrete action too. The UK government should impose sanctions, including stopping financial aid and visa bans on the speaker of parliament and other Ugandan MPs who supported the law. This would send a strong message that the UK will not tolerate the violation of human rights.
The UK government should urgently provide humanitarian visas and safe passage to the most at-risk activists and human rights defenders in Uganda. These individuals are at risk of persecution and violence, and the UK, as a member of the United Nations and signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, has a responsibility to provide them with a haven. The UK together with other western countries should go even further and create safe escape roots for all LGBTIQ+ people who wish to leave Uganda for safety.
The UK should also support grassroots organisations in Uganda that are working to protect the rights of LGBTIQ+ individuals. Financial Aid to LGBTIQ+ organisations in Uganda should be provided to help these organisations continue providing lifesaving services to the persecuted LGBTIQ+ community.
The UK government should join other western countries to condemn the law through the available tools like the United Nations. It is important to remember that the passing of this law has real-life consequences for LGBTIQ+ individuals in Uganda. They are at risk of violence, death, discrimination and imprisonment simply for being themselves. It is up to the international community to stand up for their rights and demand change.
The Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 is a dangerous law that threatens the rights and freedoms of LGBTIQ+ Ugandans. The UK government and INGOs have a responsibility to take action and condemn this law. Sanctions, humanitarian visas, and support for grassroots organisations are just a few of the steps that can be taken to make a difference. We need you to speak out and stand in solidarity with the LGBTIQ+ community in Uganda.