The International HIV/AIDS Alliance today deplored the news that President Museveni is set to sign Uganda’s notorious “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” and called on international leaders and donors to step up public criticism of the bill.
Passed by parliament last December and widely anticipated to be signed into law by President Museveni tomorrow, Friday 21st February, the bill has serious human rights implications and will have a disastrous impact on the country’s HIV response. It threatens harsh penalties for those who promote or “aid and abet” homosexuality as well as life imprisonment for “aggravated homosexuality”.
According to Enrique Restoy, Senior Advisor on Human Rights at the Alliance: “Signing the bill goes against all the scientific evidence of the impact of negative legal discrimination on the AIDS response and its passage into law has direct implications for access to healthcare services for groups most at risk of the HIV epidemic.
“It is also a flagrant breach of the human rights of Uganda’s citizens and sends out an unacceptable message to the rest of the world, in particular countries where we are already seeing a rise in violent homophobia. Diplomatic missions, including the UK, USA and EU, should right now be considering their response if the bill passes. Remaining silent in the face of such a threat to both public health and to the personal safety of individuals is simply not an option.”
In an open letter to President Museveni earlier this month, public health clinicians, researchers and academics warned that HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men in Kampala is 13%, more than three times the average prevalence among heterosexual men in the capital. According to UNAIDS, in 2012 there were 1.5 million people living with HIV in Uganda and 140,000 new HIV infections. After years of success in the fight against HIV, Uganda’s incidence has been rising since 2005.
Restoy continued: “An adverse legal environment where most at risk groups will be criminalised for their behaviour and made a target for harassment and violence is not the answer, nor is creating a culture of fear among healthcare providers. Driving LGBT communities away from services endangers not only them but also the Ugandan population at large. Museveni will literally have blood on his hands if he signs this bill.”
The Alliance has been supporting HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services in Uganda since January 2005 and is extremely concerned for the safety of its implementing partners in the current hostile climate. We are supporting the calls made by Uganda’s Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law which include a plea to diplomatic missions and international donors to:
- Step up public criticism of the bill
- Temporarily recall ambassadors from the EU, US and other European countries to consult strategically on the bill
- Announce a review of foreign aid assistance to Uganda
The Alliance will also join leading LGBT rights and health organisations in asking the Foreign Secretary William Hague to publicly state the UK’s opposition to the bill and to recall the British High Commissioner to Uganda for a week’s consultation on the way forward.