LGBT Ugandans are facing a crisis - what action will the UK take?

A day after President Museveni signed the anti-gay bill, a Ugandan newspaper published a list of the ‘200 top homos’. People are living in fear.

Share

The sun may have been shining yesterday as Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti Homosexuality Bill, but it was a dark day.

The legislation, first introduced in 2009, threatens lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ugandans with life imprisonment for having sex, getting married or even touching another person with ‘intent’.  It also criminalises anyone who ‘aids or abets homosexuality’, potentially including staff from our Ugandan implementing partners who provide HIV prevention and testing for men who have sex with men, one of the groups most affected by the HIV epidemic.  In Uganda, where HIV prevalence is 7.2 per cent, this clamp down could be disastrous for public health.

But the Anti Homosexuality Act is not only a crisis for LGBT people or the HIV response.  It encroaches on fundamental human rights to privacy, family life, equality and freedom of expression and association, and has been enacted in a context of broader repression, including attacks on the press, opposition leaders, peaceful protest and civil society groups working on corruption and other development issues.  It also legitimises violence against people who are known or thought to be gay.  Already today a Ugandan newspaper has run a cover story exposing the country’s ‘200 top homos’.  Will Museveni protect these people from the mob at their doors? 

It’s unlikely.  The President, who is vying for re-election in 2016 when he will have been in power for 30 years, claims that homosexuality is a choice, and that “many of our homosexuals are mercenaries, heterosexuals who become homosexuals because of money”.  He dismisses international concern for Uganda’s gays as “social imperialism”, disregarding the protections afforded to all Ugandans by the country’s own constitution and the international treaties it has signed.  He doesn’t care about international aid either, declaring yesterday that “we have enough space to ourselves here”.  Last week, the Minister of Ethics and Integrity told CNN that Ugandans “had better die poor than lose our dignity”.

Obama has already warned that the anti-gay law will “complicate” US-Uganda relations, while the Dutch and Danish yesterday announced plans to end aid to the Ugandan government.  The UK suspended aid to Museveni’s office in 2012 and instead channels funding to civil society organisations.  This support is vital for development and human rights and must continue, but the UK must take a stronger stand diplomatically. 

Last week the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and other NGOs wrote to the Foreign Secretary asking him to recall the British High Commissioner from Kampala in order to urgently review the situation and plan what action the UK will now take. Yesterday William Hague called on Uganda “to protect all its citizens and encourage tolerance, equality and respect”, before flying to Washington for talks with John Kerry on the Ukraine crisis. Meanwhile in Uganda LGBT people live in terror of being arrested or beaten to death.  The UK and the US must protect Ugandans in immediate danger and must hold Uganda to account on its constitutional and international commitment to human rights for all its citizens.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron visiting a primary school last year  

The only choice in schools is between the one you want and the ones you don’t

Jane Merrick
Zoë Ball says having her two children was the best thing ever to happen to her  

Start a family – you’ll never have to go out again

John Mullin
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn