Joe Biden leads condemnation of new anti-gay law in Uganda

Joe Biden

US President Joe Biden.

Photo credit: Nicholas Kamm | AFP

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law on Monday continues to be condemned by the international community, including human rights activists in the East African country.

Already, 11 petitioners have challenged the law in court, arguing that the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023, which was passed by the 11th Parliament of Uganda on 2 May 2023, was done without meaningful and adequate public participation and in contravention of Articles 1A, 2, 8A, 20, 30, 38, 79 of the Laws of Uganda.

The petitioners, which include 10 individuals and the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum of Uganda, have argued that Section 4 of the new Act signed by President Museveni is inconsistent with and violates the rights of the child as guaranteed under Articles 20, 34, 45, 8A and 287 of the Ugandan Constitution.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International has also argued that the bill restricts freedom of association and expression by proposing a penalty of up to 20 years in prison for 'promoting homosexuality'.

It vaguely criminalises the provision of support, whether in kind or financially, to facilitate activities that promote homosexuality, ostensibly targeting individuals, media outlets and organisations working on LGBTI rights.

In a statement released on Monday, Amnesty International said: "This is a desperately dark day for LGBTI rights and for Uganda. The signing of this deeply repressive law is a serious attack on human rights and the Ugandan constitution, as well as regional and international human rights instruments to which Uganda is a party.

They go on to say that "the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2023 will do nothing but enshrine discrimination, hatred and prejudice against LGBTI Ugandans and their allies into law. It's unconscionable that they risk losing their lives, their liberty, their privacy, their freedom of expression and their ability to live free from discrimination".

The sponsor of the motion in Parliament, Bugiri Municipality MP Asuman Busali, said Uganda has the right to make laws that are in line with the dictates of cultural norms in the country and they will not be cowed by sanctions.

He said this while announcing that the US had revoked the visa of the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, Anita Anette Among.

"As the Parliament of Uganda, we have listened to the concerns of our people and legislated to protect the sanctity of the family," Ms Among, one of the bill's strongest supporters, said in a statement shortly after it was assented to by the president.

She added: "We have stood strong to defend the culture, values and aspirations of our people.

Following Monday's developments in Kampala, US President Joe Biden on Monday denounced Uganda's draconian new anti-homosexuality law as a gross violation of human rights and threatened to cut aid and investment in the East African country.

He called for the immediate repeal of the tough new measures, which include making "engaging in acts of homosexuality" a crime punishable by life imprisonment in Uganda.

"The passage of Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill is a tragic violation of universal human rights," Biden said in a statement.

"No one should have to live in constant fear for their lives or face violence and discrimination. It is wrong."

The UN human rights office - whose commissioner, Volker Turk, described the bill in March as "one of the worst of its kind in the world" - condemned its passage.

"It is a recipe for systematic violations of the rights of LGBT people & the wider population," it said on Twitter.