WASHINGTON — The White House on Monday said it was taking action in response to the recent passage of Uganda an anti-gay law, signed by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in January.
The controversial law criminalizes homosexual activity, and imposes harsh penalties, including 14 years in jail for first-time offenders, and life imprisonment as the maximum penalty for, among other offenses, “aggravated homosexuality,” defined as repeated gay sex between consenting adults, or acts involving a minor, a disabled person or where one partner is infected with HIV.
In a statement posted to the White House blog, the Obama administration said:
[W]e are cognizant that there are many who share our concerns about Ugandan President Museveni’s recent enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. Ensuring justice and accountability for human rights violators like the LRA and protecting LGBT rights aren’t mutually exclusive. We can and must do both.
Accordingly, we have taken the following immediate steps while we continue to consider the implications of President Museveni’s decision to enact the Anti-Homosexuality Act and how to demonstrate our support for the LGBT community in Uganda, deter other countries from enacting similar laws, and reinforce our commitment to the promotion and defense of human rights for all people – including LGBT individuals – as a U.S. priority:
- We are shifting funding away from partners whose actions don’t reflect our values, including the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU). The IRCU’s public stance on homosexuality could foster an atmosphere of discrimination that runs counter to efforts to provide an effective and non-discriminatory response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. While the IRCU will receive $2.3 million to ensure uninterrupted delivery of treatment to the 50,000 people under its care, we will shift the remaining $6.4 million of IRCU’s funding to other partners.
- An effective HIV strategy must reach and treat key at-risk populations. However, the act’s provisions against “promotion” and abetting homosexuality leave questions about what researchers, health workers, and others may do under the law. As a result, we are suspending the start of a survey to estimate the size of key at-risk populations that was to be conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Uganda’s Makarere University. Proceeding with the survey could pose a danger to respondents and staff.
- The act potentially threatens the safety of LGBT tourists in Uganda and the liberty of those who show support for Uganda’s LGBT community. Therefore, approximately $3 million in funding designated for tourism and biodiversity promotion will be redirected to NGOs working on biodiversity protection.
- We will shift the Department of Defense-sponsored Africa Air Chiefs Symposium and East Africa Military Intelligence Non-Commissioned Officer course to locations outside of Uganda. Certain near-term invitational travel for Ugandan military and police has been suspended or canceled.? We continue to look at additional steps we may take, to work to protect LGBT individuals.
Since the law was enacted, Norway, Denmark, The Netherlands and Sweden all since withheld or re-routed millions of dollars in support to Uganda, and the World Bank has stalled a $90 million loan to bolster Uganda’s healthcare system.
Last week, Uganda’s health minister said his government has lost up to $6 million in annual U.S. government support over the East African country’s new anti-gay law.