Uganda is moving to pass a bill allowing the death penalty for being gay and making even identifying as LGBTQ+ a crime, and the White House has come out against the bill.
“We have grave concerns with the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act – AHA – by the Parliament of Uganda yesterday and increasing violence targeting LGBTQI+ persons,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at the White House press briefing yesterday.
“If the AHA is signed into law and enacted, it would impinge upon universal human rights, jeopardize progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, deter tourism and investment in Uganda, and damage Uganda’s international reputation.”
On Tuesday, Uganda’s Parliament passed the bill that would make “aggravated homosexuality” a capital crime and imposes a life sentence for “recruitment, promotion and funding” of same-sex “activities.” The proposed law is the first to make identifying as LGBTQ+ a crime.
The bill got overwhelming support in Parliament, with one lawmaker even saying that it doesn’t go far enough and advocating for castration for queer men to prevent them from having sex in prison.
“The bill is one of the most extreme anti-LGBTQI+ laws in the world,” Jean-Pierre continued. “Human rights are universal. No one should be attacked, imprisoned, or killed simply because of who they are or whom they love.”
National Security Council (NSC) Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby appeared at the press briefing and suggested that the U.S. might withdraw aid to Uganda because of the law while stressing that “no decisions” have been made since the bill has yet to be signed by Uganda’s president.
“We would have to take a look at whether or not there might be repercussions that we would have to take, perhaps in an economic way, should this law actually get passed, enacted,” Kirby said.
“And that would be really unfortunate, because so much of the economic assistance that we provide Uganda is health assistance and largely through PEPFAR. And you can see a world in which, you know, a law like this, should it be enacted, would not only, as Karine rightly said, just be devastating to a whole community of people inside of Uganda, but if it were to have any kind of an effect on our economic assistance, that would only make that worse.”
Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, with male homosexuality carrying a punishment of life in prison. The first Kill the Gays bill in Uganda was introduced in 2009 but was struck down in 2014 because of a technicality.
The bill now goes to President Yoweri Museveni, who has not said whether he supports the legislation. However, he has signed previous anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law.
In a recent speech, Museveni suggested that the new law also has his backing. “Homosexuals are deviations from the normal,” he said. “Why? Is it by nature or by nurture? We need to answer those questions. We need a medical opinion on that.”
“The bill is ill-conceived, it contains provisions that are unconstitutional, reverses the gains registered in the fight against gender-based violence, and criminalizes individuals instead of conduct that contravenes all known legal norms,” said Fox Odoi-Oywelowo, one of the two MPs who opposed the legislation. “The bill doesn’t introduce any value addition to the statute book and available legislative framework.”