Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has signed into law one of the world’s most severe anti-homosexuality bills, sparking an uproar among human rights activists.
The legislation, which imposes harsh penalties on LGBTQ individuals, has already forced many members of the community to go into hiding for fear of persecution.
President Museveni initially returned the bill to parliament for revisions in March but approved the revised version on Monday.
The law, which seeks to restrict homosexual rights in Uganda and punish offenders, has triggered concerns about the safety and well-being of the LGBTQ community.
One gay Ugandan man, who spoke anonymously due to the risk of reprisal, called for international intervention to protect individuals like him.
Expressing fear for his life, he questioned why his identity should be criminalized, stating, “This is who I am. I am scared for my life, and I am scared for my friends. I am scared for my family. We are really scared.”
Another lesbian, working as a bartender in the capital city of Kampala, described the panic and fear that the law has instilled within the community. She highlighted the potential for imprisonment and kidnapping, prompting many to seek asylum in countries that provide support for LGBTQ individuals.
President Museveni’s approval of the bill did not come as a surprise, given his long-standing anti-LGBTQ stance and previous comments on homosexuality.
While same-sex relations were already illegal in Uganda, lawmakers decided to tighten the laws further this year.
The passing of the anti-homosexuality law in Uganda has drawn international criticism, with German lawmakers denouncing it as a violation of human rights.
They called for a united European Union (EU) response and proposed imposing a Schengen visa ban on Ugandan lawmakers involved in the bill’s introduction.
Additionally, they suggested freezing their foreign accounts and reconsidering development aid.
The European Union issued a statement expressing regret over the signing of the law, emphasizing its contradiction with international human rights law and Uganda’s obligations under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
The EU pledged to engage with Ugandan authorities and civil society to ensure equal treatment and respect for all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Germany’s Development Minister also expressed concern about the law’s impact on international partners working in Uganda and emphasized the importance of promoting human rights and inclusive development.
Furthermore, United States President Joe Biden condemned the law as a violation of human rights, stating that his administration is evaluating the implications for US engagement with Uganda.
He hinted at possible sanctions and restrictions on entry into the United States for those involved in serious human rights abuses or corruption.
Human rights activists in Uganda have petitioned the constitutional court, challenging the severe penalties imposed by the law.
They argue that the legislation violates the right to dignity and call for a fair hearing, hoping for a similar outcome to 2014 when the court invalidated a previous anti-gay law due to procedural reasons.