Uganda passes anti-gay bill into law

Uganda's anti-gay bill has become law, prompting aid agencies and human rights organizations to demand that it be reviewed

Uganda passes anti-gay bill into law

Uganda passes anti-gay bill into law

The legislation conflicts with international treaties and requires “urgent” judicial review, the UN Human Rights Office has insisted

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has signed into law what activists have called one of the world's harshest pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation. The Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 has prompted the outrage of international human rights organizations and activists who say it must be reviewed.

The bill, which was approved in March, originally proposed 20 years in prison for merely identifying as LGBTQ, but the president returned it to parliament in late April for revision to ensure it does not "frighten" those who need "rehabilitation."

“We have heeded the concerns [of] our people and legislated to protect the sanctity of family,” Anita Annet Among, the speaker of Uganda’s parliament, said in a statement on Monday. Among said Uganda was standing strong to “defend the culture, values and aspirations of our people” with the law.

The lawmaker encouraged law enforcement agencies to execute their mandates in ensuring that the Anti-Homosexuality Act is enforced in a “fair, steadfast, and firm manner.”

An amended version of the bill, which passed parliament earlier this month, clarified that identifying as LGBTQ without engaging in homosexual acts would not be criminalized.

Most of its features, however, remained, such as the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality," which includes having sex with a minor, having sex while HIV positive, and incest. 

The United Nations Human Rights Office insisted that the anti-gay law, which it called "draconian and discriminatory," is a "recipe for systematic violations of the rights" of LGBTQ people and the general population.

“It conflicts with the Constitution and international treaties and requires urgent judicial review,” it tweeted. 

In a joint statement on Monday, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, and the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, said the legislation puts Kampala’s progress on HIV response in “grave jeopardy.” 

Washington has previously warned Uganda of potential economic "repercussions" if the legislation goes into effect.

"We're certainly watching this really closely and we would have to take a look at whether or not there might be repercussions that we would have to take, perhaps in an economic way, should this law actually get passed and enacted," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in March.

But Museveni has urged legislators to demonstrate "patriotism,” oppose homosexuality, and prepare for the potential impact of aid cuts on the country.