May 31, 2023
AVAC strongly condemns Uganda’s new Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2023 that President Yoweri Museveni signed into law and stands in solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community in Uganda.
“This newly signed legislation expands on a previous attempt to legislate hate and oppression of the LGBTQIA+ community in Uganda nearly a decade ago,” said Angelo Kaggwa-Katumba, Senior Program Manager at AVAC. “As LGBTQIA+ people and allies, AVAC and our partners have been tireless in our work to change attitudes and policy – in Uganda and around the world – because we’ve seen the direct link between criminalization and stigma and the devastating impact both have on HIV incidence. This new law is a direct violation of the health, rights and humanity of the LGBTQIA+ community, and will undermine and reverse Uganda’s progress in HIV prevention, destroying community wellbeing and taking lives along the way.”
The new law increases penalties for consensual sex among same-sex individuals, provisions that Uganda has had on the books as anti-sodomy laws from the British colonial era. It also criminalizes advocacy that supports LGBTQIA+ Ugandan rights, and could even bring death sentences, for so-called “aggravated homosexuality,” a clause that can be applied to people living with HIV, intensifying stigma and a cascade of other harms. Such provisions drive people underground, discouraging the most vulnerable populations from seeking testing, treatment and prevention, and they will setback the fight against HIV.
Advocates have pledged to challenge the constitutionality of the law before the courts, as detailed in this statement from Convening for Equality (CFE), a Ugandan LGBTQIA+ community-led Coalition working alongside a broad range of national and international partners. In addition, leaders of the Global Fund, UNAIDS and PEPFAR have also issued a Joint Statement by the Leaders of the on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023, stating their “deep concern about the harmful impact” of the law “on the health of its citizens and its impact on the AIDS response that has been successful up to now.”
“We must come together and make our voices resoundingly clear: we must stand as one, united in our determination to dismantle this oppressive regime of intolerance,” said Richard Lusimbo, a Co-Convener of CFE, Director General of the Uganda Key Populations Consortium (UKPC), and long-time AVAC partner. “Today, we reaffirm our unwavering commitment, declaring that we will not rest until the shackles of this dangerous law are broken. We will tirelessly strive until equality and justice prevail over discrimination and hate. Let this be the rallying cry igniting change, fueling our collective efforts to create a future where everyone is celebrated for their uniqueness and embraced unconditionally.”
Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act is one of the world’s most extreme anti-gay laws, in a period when several other countries, including the US, are seeing an increasing number of anti-LGBTQIA+ laws proposed.
“This law is part of a global increase in extremism focused on moralizing behavior related to sexual and reproductive health that could set back decades of progress in building community-focused health services,” said Mitchell Warren, AVAC executive director. “The now signed anti-gay bill in Uganda is the latest in a wave of anti-LGBTQIA+ actions in several countries, from arrests in Zambia to a backlash in Kenya, to anti-trans laws in several US states and elsewhere, all of which threaten lives and livelihoods, and our ability to connect key populations with the resources they need and deserve to prevent and treat HIV and to live their fullest lives. If this were happening in any one country, it would be alarming, but the fact that it’s happening in multiple countries, in multiple parts of the world, is downright chilling.”
“Global, regional, national and local leaders must stand up and fight back against these heinous laws. If we don’t deal with the fundamental reality of stigma, discrimination and criminalization, we will never end any epidemic. We stand in solidarity with all allies and partners committed to turning the tide from hate and fear to global health equity for all,” Warren added.