President Yoweri Museveni’s signing of the bill will make Uganda one of the world’s most dangerous places for LGBT+ people. (Photo: State House Uganda / Twitter)
Uganda’s beleaguered LGBT+ community is facing dark days ahead after President Yoweri Museveni signed the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law.
On Monday, Uganda’s State House confirmed on Twitter that: “President [Museveni] has assented to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023. It now becomes the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023.” This was accompanied by an image of what appeared to be Museveni signing the legislation.
In an official statement, the Speaker of Parliament, Anita Annet Among, welcomed the news and praised the president “for his steadfast action in the interest of Ugandans.”
She said that “we have stood strong to defend the culture, values, and aspirations of our people…”
Among called on “the duty bearers under the law to execute the mandate bestowed upon them in the Anti-Homosexuality Act. The people of Uganda have spoken, and it is your duty now to enforce the law in a fair, steadfast, and firm manner.”
The bill was first passed by Uganda’s Parliament in March but was sent back by the president for several amendments. The revised version was approved by MPs on 2 May.
The bill retained its most severe penalties of life in prison for engaging in a homosexual sexual act, the death penalty for aggravated homosexuality (e.g. serial “offenders”), and 20 years in prison for the “promotion” of homosexuality.
Uganda is likely to receive widespread international condemnation for enacting the Anti-Homosexuality Act which has been described as the most severe anti-LGBT+ legislation in the world.
The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reacted to the news by urging Uganda’s courts to strike down the law.
“We are appalled that the draconian and discriminatory anti-gay bill is now law. It is a recipe for systematic violations of the rights of LGBT people and the wider population. It conflicts with the Constitution and international treaties and requires urgent judicial review,” said the office.
In a joint statement, the leaders of the Global Fund, UNAIDS and PEPFAR said the new law puts the country’s HIV/AIDS response “in grave jeopardy” and called for it to be reconsidered.
“LGBTQI+ people in Uganda increasingly fear for their safety and security, and increasing numbers of people are being discouraged from seeking vital health services for fear of attack, punishment and further marginalisation,” they said.