Human Rights Defenders Call on Uganda to Repeal Discriminatory Anti-LGBT Rights Legislation

(Johannesburg—24 February 2014) The “Anti-Homosexuality Legislation,” went into effect today in Uganda after President Museveni signed it into law. The fate of the controversial bill has been the subject of international attention and concern over the impact on the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons in Uganda.

Human rights defenders expressed a strong and immediate response: “The Ugandan government must immediately move to repeal the so-called ‘Anti-Homosexuality’ law which attaches severe criminal penalties to freedom of association and speech related to LGBT rights,” said Jessica Stern, Executive Director, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).

Known as the “Jail the Gays” law, it has been criticized widely by Ugandan and international civil society, as well as by state leaders, as inherently in violation of Uganda’s international human rights obligations. The law redoubles existing legislation criminalizing homosexual relations. It is widely viewed as part of political maneuvering as Uganda prepares for presidential elections.

“This law is so vague that it is could even lead to prison time for health workers who provide care to someone thought to be gay,” said Thomas Ndayiragije, Senior Program Officer in the IGLHRC Africa Program. “Ordinary Ugandans who believe in equality, humanity, and rights, could end up in jail.”

Experience from other jurisdictions with similarly draconian laws, such as Nigeria or Russia, indicates that their implementation is often followed by a surge in violence against individuals thought to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The Ugandan government has not indicated any plans to counter such violence or to investigate potential allegations of abuse.

“The Ugandan government has an obligation to protect everyone within its jurisdiction from violence,” said Ndayiragije. “To meet this obligation, we need to see concrete plans to stop vigilante violence in the wake of this legislation and to investigate, impartially, all allegations of abuse so long as the law is in effect. The government must publicly declare that it will not tolerate violence against LGBT populations.”

President Museveni signs anti-homosexuality legislation. Photo via Facebook