Ugandan President Museveni approves tough new anti-gay law

Person with mask and rainbow sticker

The Ugandan government resisted pressure to drop the legislation

Uganda’s progress in the fight against HIV is in “serious jeopardy” after the president approved tough new legislation against homosexuality, the UN and US have warned.

A growing number of people are discouraged from seeking life-saving health services for fear of attack and punishment, they added.

President Yoweri Museveni signed into law the anti-homosexuality bill after parliament watered it down.

It’s still one of the toughest anti-LGBTQ laws in the world.

Homosexual acts are already illegal in Uganda, but now anyone convicted faces life imprisonment.

The law imposes the death penalty for so-called aggravated cases, which include same-sex sexual activity with someone under 18 or when someone is infected with a lifelong disease, including HIV.

In a joint statement, three of the world’s leading health campaign groups – the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (Pepfar), UNAIDS and the Global Fund – said they were deeply concerned by the “adverse impact” of legislation.

“Uganda’s progress in its response to HIV is now at grave risk,” the statement said.

“The stigma and discrimination associated with the passage of the law has already led to reduced access to prevention as well as treatment services,” he added.

The legislation has also been condemned by Ugandan campaign groups, who are expected to take legal action to strike down the legislation on the grounds that it is discriminatory and violates the rights of LGBTQ+ people.

A similar law was struck down by Uganda’s Constitutional Court in 2014.

Ugandan rights activist Clare Byarugaba said it was “a very dark and sad day” for the LGBTQ+ community and all Ugandans, Reuters news agency reported.

“The President of Uganda has today legalized state-sponsored homophobia and transphobia,” the activist added.

Speaker of Parliament Anita Among welcomed Mr Museveni’s decision to sign the bill, saying it will “protect the sanctity of the family”.

“We have stood strong to defend the culture, values ​​and aspirations of our people,” she added in a statement. statement posted on Twitter.

The bill was passed in parliament earlier this month, with only one MP opposing it.

The United States has previously warned Uganda of possible economic “repercussions” if the legislation goes into effect.

The United States is a major trading partner of Uganda. The East African nation benefits from the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which gives it easier access to lucrative US markets.

The United States, UNAIDS and the Global Fund have also played major roles in supporting Uganda’s longstanding efforts to fight HIV/AIDS.

In 2021, 89% of people living with HIV in Uganda knew their status, more than 92% of them were receiving antiretroviral treatment and 95% of those on treatment were virally suppressed, they said in their statement.

“Together, we call for the law to be reviewed so that Uganda can continue on its path to ensuring equitable access to health services and ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030,” the statement said. communicated.

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