WASHINGTON – US President Joe Biden on Monday slammed Uganda’s draconian new law against homosexuality as a grave human rights violation, and threatened to cut aid and investment in the east African country.
He called for the immediate repeal of the tough new measures, which state among other things that “engaging in acts of homosexuality” in Uganda, would be an offense punishable with life imprisonment.
“The enactment of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act is a tragic violation of universal human rights,” Biden said in a statement, joining a chorus of condemnation after President Yoweri Museveni signed the measures into law.
“No one should have to live in constant fear for their life or being subjected to violence and discrimination,” Biden said. “It is wrong.”
On Monday, the speaker of Parliament Anita Among confirmed that President Museveni signed a new tough anti-gay bill into law that orders the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” defined as same-sex relations involving HIV-positive people, children or other vulnerable people.
“This shameful Act is the latest development in an alarming trend of human rights abuses and corruption in Uganda,” said Biden.
Biden said he had asked his National Security Council to assess what the law means for “all aspects of US engagement with Uganda,” including services providing AIDS relief, and other assistance and investments.
He said the administration would also consider slapping sanctions on Uganda and restricting the entry into the United States of people engaging in human rights abuses or corruption there.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (the Global Fund), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) have since issued a joint statement saying that the bill poses a public health threat to people living with HIV/AIDS.
“Uganda’s progress on its HIV response is now in grave jeopardy. The Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 will obstruct health education and the outreach that can help end AIDS as a public health threat. The stigma and discrimination associated with the passage of the Act has already led to reduced access to prevention as well as treatment services. Trust, confidentiality, and stigma-free engagement are essential for anyone seeking health care. 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 marginalization,” read the statement.
They added, “Uganda has repeatedly demonstrated leadership and commitment to ending AIDS – and has achieved great success – by leaving no one behind. Together as one, we call for the Act to be reconsidered so that Uganda may continue on its path to ensure equitable access to health services and end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.”
The legislation signed on Monday in Uganda adds to many anti-LGBTQ laws that have been enacted on the African continent, where only 22 of 54 nations allow homosexuality.
Under the Trump administration, a global campaign was launched to end the criminalization of homosexuality in multiple nations. The push to end laws that outlaw homosexuality abroad stood in contrast with the Trump administration’s mixed record on gay rights in the United States. The Trump administration banned transgender people from the U.S. military and cut funding for HIV and AIDS research.
“Any law criminalising homosexuality or imposing the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’ is grotesque & an abomination,” Cruz said on Twitter. “ALL civilized nations should join together in condemning this human rights abuse.”
Additional reporting by Agencies