The U.S President Joe Biden on Monday made a strong call for the immediate repeal of Uganda’s Anti-LGBTQ Law. The Act, which was signed into law on May 29, 2023, is a tragic violation of universal human rights that endangers not only the safety and freedom of countless Ugandans, but also economic growth and U.S. government personnel, implementation partners, tourists, and members of the business community.
The alarming reports of violence and discrimination that have accompanied the introduction of this law painted a terrifying picture for LGBTQ+ individuals, including evictions and job terminations and threats of violence and abuse. Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, urged Uganda to repeal the law, stating, “there is no place for hate and intolerance”.
As a response, the President has directed the National Security Council to evaluate the implications of the Anti-Homosexuality Act on all aspects of U.S. engagement with Uganda, including the delivery of services under the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and other forms of assistance and investments.
The impacts of the law have already been assessed by the U.S. in its annual review of Uganda’s eligibility for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Moreover, President Biden also mentioned that the United States is considering further measures against individuals involved in serious human rights abuses or corruption, such as sanctions and entry restrictions.
By calling for the repeal of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, President Biden is sending a clear message that respect for universal human rights should be non-negotiable. As the United States stands up against prejudice and hate towards the LGBTQ+ community, other nations must also make clear their opposition to such human rights violations.
President Biden has made it unequivocally clear that the Anti-Homosexuality Act passed by the Ugandan government is a “tragic violation of universal human rights”. This legislation has caused numerous members of the LGBTQI+ community to live in fear and face discrimination. It has also threatened their prospects of economic growth, and the recent amendments mean people are more likely to be subjected to violent persecution.
Since the Anti-Homosexuality Act was passed, reports of violence and discrimination towards the LGBTQI+ community have significantly increased. People have been prohibited from accessing medical care at hospitals, been fired from their jobs, and been evicted from their homes. Furthermore, victims of this heinous legislation can now be subjected to excessive jail sentences, violence, and general abuse.
This is not only a tragedy for those faced with discrimination and violence in Uganda, but a humanitarian crisis for the world. In an effort to protect all those that are put in danger by this Act, President Biden has ordered his National Security Council to consider all aspects of how this law affects the United States’ engagement with the region. This includes the review of U.S. aid packages (including PEPFAR), as well as other investments.
President Biden is not alone in his condemnation of this controversial Act. International organisations such as Amnesty International, the United Nations, and Human Rights Watch have all denounced the legislation as an infringement upon Human Rights and a clear violation of international law.
My Administration is committed to strengthening our partnership with Uganda and advancing protections for the human rights of individuals everywhere. We will not tolerate human rights abuses or corruption, and that commitment extends to our review of whether Uganda meets the eligibility requirements under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). An important part of this review process is considering the impacts of both changing and existing laws on the people of Uganda.
My Administration is applying pressure in pursuit of an equal and just Uganda. On April 13, 2021, I took action to send a definitive message that the United States Government will not tolerate abuse or corruption. This includes cutting assistance from the United States if Uganda does not repeal its new charity control law. This law places arbitrary requirements on non-governmental organisations and places a blanket ban on all activities deemed to be contrary to public interest.
In determining Uganda’s eligibility for the AGOA, my Administration will consider the impacts the law has on the rights, safety, and livelihoods of Ugandans. We will also examine how this law may stifle the voices of local actors, reduce civil dissent, and inhibit foreign investments.
Furthermore, we will continue to reaffirm our commitment to the rule of law and human rights. We understand that strengthening the legal framework in Uganda is a key way of guaranteeing greater respect for the rule of law. This includes the right of individuals to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and any restrictions by the Government on these rights must be necessary and proportionate. The access to justice of all people in Uganda must also be guaranteed and strengthened.