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Six Ways to Get Arrested Through the Work of an Internationally Financed Development Project in Uganda






Outright Team
Published Date

The recently adopted Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) criminalizes several activities that are commonplace in development projects. Here are six examples of how non-LGBT people, as well as LGBT people, can get arrested through their involvement in development projects. Below you will find a summary of the provisions of the AHA.



Work on the staff of an internationally financed HIV care, prevention or research project.


The AHA prohibits the distribution of affirming health information related to same-sex sexual behavior (Sec. 11(2)(a) and (b)). In February 2014, Uganda adopted a law similar to the AHA, which the Court ultimately struck down on a procedural technicality. Six weeks after the passage of that law, the police raided an HIV care and research project operated jointly between Makerere University Kampala and the U.S. Military HIV Research Program. One of the facility’s employees was arrested and charged with “recruiting homosexuals."  After this incident, one provider related his own fear of arrest. “If someone calls you asking for condoms and lubricant, you ask yourself ‘Who is this? It could even be the police.’” In March 2023, during the Parliamentary Debates of the current AHA, members of Parliament singled out the distribution of lubricants as one of the acts that should be criminalized. 


Provide maternal and family health services to a lesbian mom in an internationally-financed project.

If you work in a maternal and family health program, and you know your client is a lesbian mom, then you can be deemed to have a reasonable suspicion that she is someone who commits the crime of “homosexuality." You have a mandatory duty to report her to the police. Failure to report her carries a penalty of imprisonment of up to twenty years (Secs. 11(2)(a) & 14). You have a duty to report your client regardless of provider-patient privilege. The law gives you immunity from any action anyone might take against you because you violated this privilege. Additionally, if you provide any materials on sexual health related to the mom’s sexual orientation, you could face an additional twenty years (Sec. 11(2)(b)). The Act also makes it a crime to “allow any premises to be used” to commit an offense under that act (Sec. 9). If your services are location-based, you could face another twenty years.


Visit an internationally-financed clinic to get health services.

Any receptionist, nurse, doctor or another client that you may encounter all have a mandatory duty to report you to the police if they suspect you might commit “homosexuality” or be an advocate or supporter of LGBT people. If they fail to report you, they could face a jail penalty of up to twenty years twenty-years (Secs. 11(2)(a) & 14). If you are LGBT person or an advocate, seeking health services could lead to your arrest.

On June 5, 2023, the Ministry of Health issued a circular stating that health facilities should not discriminate against patients based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, citing privacy provisions in the Patients’ Charter. However, the Patients’ Charter only protects privacy insofar as there is no suspected violation of Ugandan law. The duty to report patients to the police continues to apply to health workers.


Apply for a construction job on an internationally financed infrastructure project.

Any person you meet at the job site, the foreman, co-workers and administrators, all have a mandatory duty to report you to the police if they suspect you might commit “homosexuality” or be an advocate or supporter of LGBT people (Secs. 11(2)(a) & 14).  There are no legal protections against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  After the passage of the 2014 AHA, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reported on LGBT people who told them “their employers had fired them since the signing of the bill,” and found that “LGBTI Ugandans who were in the informal sector are also affected.” If you are an LGBT person, applying for a job or showing up at work could lead to your arrest.


Email or meet with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) staff, World Bank Group (WBG) staff or other international development agencies’ staff.

Large development agencies generally hire law-abiding people and instruct them to adhere to local criminal laws. Under Ugandan law – the AHA, specifically – these staff people commit a crime, punishable by up to twenty years, if they do not report to the police anyone that can be reasonably suspected of committing homosexuality, which may include anyone who self-identifies as LGBT. In addition, emailing materials that discuss LGBT people in a supportive manner may violate prohibitions on encouragement (Sec. 11(2)(a)) and communication (Sec. 11(2)(b)). 

You may interact with staff because you work with a civil society organization (CSO). Not only is it a crime to operate a non-governmental organization (NGO) that advocates for the “normalization of homosexuality” (Sec. 11(2)), but the Attorney General has explicitly stated that the law is “intended to protect the traditional family by protecting the culture of the people of Uganda against the acts of same sex rights activists.” Five days after the previous Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced in 2014, police raided an LGBT civil society conference and detained organizers. In the past year, the authorities have arrested LGBTI leaders, shut down the largest LGBT group and withdrawn the mandate for the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights office in Kampala.


Talk about LGBT people in a training program or classroom financed by the World Bank or another development partner.

If you are a teacher, trainer or program manager and you discuss LGBT people or issues in an affirming manner, you could be charged with encouragement (Sec. 11(2)(a)) and communication (Sec. 11(2)(b)), both of which have a twenty-year sentence.  In legislative debates about the AHA, Member of Parliament David Bahati cited teaching as the reason why the bill’s original ten-year criminal penalty for encouragement should be doubled to twenty years. “A teacher who teaches homosexuality - the doctrine - is actually the source of all these problems that we are talking about. Therefore, 10 years, in my opinion, is very minimal. I propose 20 years." A month after the AHA was first introduced in Parliament, a secondary school teacher was arrested for allegedly promoting homosexuality.

Anti-Homosexuality Act Selected Provisions

    Offenses related to same-sex sexual acts:

    Section 2 | Homosexuality

    • Life imprisonment

    • A single sexual act

    Applies to:

    • People engaging in same-sex activity.

    Offenses related to same-sex sexual acts:

    Section 3 | Aggravated homosexuality

    • Death penalty
    • Repeated sexual acts. 
    • Consensual sex with a person with a disability.
    • Consensual sex that results in the transmission of HIV.

    Applies to:

    • People engaging in same-sex activity.

    Offenses related to development activities:

    Section 9 | Use of premises

    • Seven years imprisonment
    • Knowingly allows any premises to be used to commit an offense.    

    Applies to:

    Any person or entity, including:

    • development agency staff or consultant in Uganda,
    • public employee, 
    • hotel/venue,
    • NGO or
    • WBG staff member/consultant,
    • who provides space for 
    • a meeting related to LGBT issues, or
    • services/advocacy related to LGBT people.

    Offenses related to development activities:

    Section 11(2)(a) | Encouragement

    • Twenty years imprisonment
    • Encourages another person to do any act that constitutes an offense.

    Applies to:

    • Any person or entity.
    • Any person or entity committing other offenses under the act. 
    • Use of premises, communication, funding, leasing, failure to report and operating an NGO can all be considered encouragement.

    Offenses related to development activities:

    Section 11(2)(b) | Communication

    • Twenty years imprisonment
    • Knowingly advertises, publishes, broadcasts or distributes, by any means, including the use of a computer or the internet, any material promoting or encouraging homosexuality or the commission of an offense.

    Applies to:

    Anyone person or entity, including a

    • development agency staff member or consultant in Uganda,
    • media outlet,
    • public employee,
    • healthcare provider,
    • teacher,
    • corporation,
    • hotel or
    • NGO, 
    • who emails, provides literature, addresses a group or has a website.

    Offenses related to development activities:

    Section 11(2)(c) | Funding

    • Twenty years imprisonment
    • Provides financial cash or in-kind support to facilitate activities that encourage the observance or normalization of conduct prohibited under this Act.

    Applies to:

    Any person or entity, including a

    • private donor, 
    • philanthropist,
    • foundation or
    • corporate sponsor.

    Offenses related to development activities:

    Section 11(1)(d) | Leasing

    • Twenty-year imprisonment
    • Leases or allows another person to use any building or establishment for the purpose of undertaking activities that encourage homosexuality or any other offense under this Act.

    Applies to:

    • Landlords (though local public officials can also force landlords to evict LGBT people), hotel staff and event space managers.

    Offenses related to development activities:

    Section 11(2)(e) | Operating NGO

    • Twenty years imprisonment
    • Operates an organization that promotes or encourages homosexuality or the observance or normalization of conduct prohibited under this Act.

    Applies to:

    • NGO staff and officers, including any NGO with a non-discrimination policy inclusive of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

    Offenses related to development activities:

    Section 12 | Employment

    • Disqualification from employment near children, people with disabilities, refugees and internally displaced persons, survivors of gender-based violence, illiterate people and elderly people.

    Applies to:

    • LGBT people.

    Offenses related to development activities:

    Section 14 | Duty-To-Report

    • Penalty under sentencing guidelines, or five years imprisonment (if involving minors) or twenty years (if considered encouragement).
    • A person who has a reasonable suspicion that a person has committed or intends to commit any offense under this Act, shall report the matter to the police for appropriate action.
    • People who report are protected as whistleblowers. People who violate privilege by reporting (doctors, lawyers) are immune from actions.
    • Failure to report can also be considered a form of promotion, carrying a twenty-year sentence.

    Applies to:

    Any person or entity, including a

    • WBG staff member or consultant in Uganda,
    • public or private employee,
    • employer,
    • teacher,
    • healthcare provider,
    • job training/support staff or
    • service provider.

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