Earlier this month, Ugandan parliament approved a draconian anti-gay bill that would mandate imprisonment for same-sex sexual activity. The bill has yet to be signed into law by Ugandan President Museveni, who said that he would read the legislation before signing it. The bill was first introduced in 2009 as American Religious Right figures promoted homophobic attitudes in Uganda.
World leaders, human rights organizations, and LGBTQ activists have criticized the bill, urging President Museveni to reject it. Global opponents of the bill argue that if signed into law, the anti-gay bill would deal a serious blow to human rights, privacy, free speech, and public health in Uganda.
First, in a December 24th press statement, U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki expressed concern over the bill, emphasizing the importance of human rights.
"We are deeply concerned by the Ugandan Parliament’s passage of anti-homosexuality legislation. As Americans, we believe that people everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality – and that no one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or whom they love. We join those in Uganda and around the world who appeal for respect for the human rights of LGBT persons and of all persons."The United Kingdom is concerned about the bill as well. In a December 20th press release, Foreign Office Minister Hugh Robertson warned that the anti-gay legislation would fuel persecution.
"The UK is concerned about the potential impact of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill approved today by the Ugandan Parliament on the country’s human rights. Whilst recognising Uganda’s sovereignty, we believe that this Bill is incompatible with the defence of minority rights and would increase persecution and discrimination of ordinary people across Uganda. We have and will continue to raise our concerns."Hivos, an international development organization, was "appalled" when Ugandan parliament approved the bill. "Not only does this law violate numerous rights, namely the right to privacy, to equality and to respect for private and family life, it also infringes on the right to freedom of association and assembly and the right to freedom of expression," Hivos said in a December 22nd statement. Hivos, Human Rights Watch, Sexual Minorities Uganda, and the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project issued a joint press release urging Presiden Museveni to veto the bill.
Alistair Stewart, assistant director of Kaleidoscope Trust, decried the development as part of "a terrible fortnight in the struggle for LGBT rights".
"The passage of the bill is a terrible set back to the LGBT community in Uganda and is a direct assault on their dignity and human rights. It is a bleak day for Uganda and for the international LGBT movement.The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) slammed the legislation as an affront to human rights. Ross Murray, GLAAD Director of News, called the bill a "travesty" created by American Religious Right leaders.
Following on from the Indian Supreme Court ruling recriminalising homosexuality, the passage through the Nigerian Senate of a bill outlawing LGBT organisations and the removal of equal marriage laws in Australia's ACT, this has been a terrible fortnight in the struggle for LGBT rights."
"Uganda's anti-LGBT law specifically targets LGBT people with brutal persecution and is one of the worst human rights violations of our time ... The Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, Scott Lively, and Lou Engle in our own country created this travesty of justice, and it is now up to fair-minded Americans to speak out for the very lives of LGBT people in Uganda."From a public health standpoint, Uganda's anti-gay bill could undermine anti-HIV efforts by driving vulnerable populations underground. The International HIV/AIDS Alliance warned that the bill, if signed into law, would have a disastrous impact on anti-HIV efforts in Uganda.
"The passing of the bill is likely to lead to even more HIV infections in marginalised populations, especially among men who have sex with men and transgender people. They will be prevented from having access to essential public health information, such as how to protect themselves from HIV and how to access life saving treatment and support services that are stigma-free. The Alliance calls on the HIV community to mobilise to express their opposition to the bill becoming law."The global outcry against Uganda's anti-gay bill is a stark reminder that LGBTQ rights are more than a "culture war" issue. Legislative attacks on the LGBTQ community have devastating consequences for human rights and health. When countries such as Uganda propose anti-gay legislation, people's human rights, well-being, and lives hang in the balance.