By Melanie Nathan, April 27, 2023
The United States is threatening sanctions against Uganda should the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 become law. The legislation which carries life in prison and a death penalty for so called "aggravated homosexuality" is likely to become law in the next few weeks, either through the assent of President Museveni or by a two third majority vote in Parliament. Currently the law has been returned to Parliament for amendments at a plenary session to be convened on May 02, 2023.
Senator Ron Wyden, Chairman has penned a letter to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai, from the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance as shown below, expressing concern for the passage of the law in Uganda and calling on Blinken and Tai to communicate to President Museveni that the United States will revoke Uganda’s status under the AGOA, a law from 2000, that provides duty free treatment for certain imports originating in Uganda, as long as the beneficiary country, such as Uganda, does not engage in gross human rights violations.
Pic: Senator Ron Wyden, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance
This letter was written on April 25. On April 26 Museveni sent the AHA back to Parliament, not assenting to the legislation, but asking for amendments. Perhaps he was reacting to these threats of sanctions. But one must realize that no amount of amendment will or should stop these sanctions from occurring. The Kill the Gays Bill, regardless of how the legislation is tweaked by Parliament, is 100% unacceptable- in any form – with any amendment – as it assails the basic human rights of LGBTQI+ Ugandans, licensing violence and persecution. No matter which way you look at this Bill it is, by any basic standard, whether measured against Uganda’s Constitution or global instruments, a flagrant disregard for the most very basic of human rights: - a consenting adult’s freedom to love and be intimate with a person of the same gender, to whom they are attracted. Same-sex love and relationship as well as intimacy between consenting adult hurts no one. And if a bunch of parliamentarians are worried about pedophiles, or failed consent, there is already law to cover those crimes.
Because the AHA 2023 is a Private Members Bill, Parliament has the power to pass the legislation without Museveni’s assent, as long as there is a 2/3rd majority vote in favor of the ACT. Which means that should the Parliament enact the law through excluding Museveni's assent or should Museveni assent, they are knowingly allowing the U.S.A. to invoke sanctions to include revoking AGOA. Thus the Parliamentarians are knowingly delivering a huge blow to Uganda’s trade and economy, knowingly hurting all Ugandans. Let us hope all Parliamentarians read this letter- which I have published below.
Let us be clear - this is not the United States telling Uganda what it can and cannot legislate. This is with full respect for Uganda's sovereignty to enact any law it chooses. But that does not mean they get a free pass to enact laws that breach human rights. The United States is reminding Uganda that unless it adheres to basic international human rights standards, they do not get to participate in global import benefits. Uganda is welcome to isolate itself from the world if they cannot join the world in recognizing that LGBTQI+ people are not the deviants and pedophiles they tout so vehemently to underpin this law. As much as Uganda believes it has the right to its sovereign laws, America believes it has the right to uphold its commitment to basic human rights.
If Uganda wants laws that they deem serve their country, that they assert are in their country’s best interests – they should weigh this up in an informed and educated fashion. Not relying on rhetoric and myth. So what is best for Uganda? A few gays getting arrested for private relationships that harm no-one, versus economic sanctions that could cripple the country?
Do the Parliamentarians really believe that losing beneficial trade status is worth THE LIE that gays are only here to promote homosexuality and hurt children? It is clear the sanctions will be much more harmful to Uganda than a futile attempt to legislate against and criminalize human sexuality. It is clear that the concerns of Parliamentarians to “protect children” are well covered by a myriad of existing laws that apply equally to all.
This law is likely to be passed even if Secretary Blinken and Hon. Tai get through to Museveni, as it is clear from all that we have seen that the Parliamentarians will vote for the Bill. This is because the U.S. anti-homosexuality Evangelicals have made such a good job of spewing hate and spreading homophobia, riling up anti-LGBT sentiment, for well over two decades. Passage of the law is popular with over 90% of the Ugandan populace. Parliamentarians who want to win the next election are fully aware of the popularity of the Kill the Gays Bill and so they will forego Uganda, so as to pave the way for these sanctions instead of acting in Uganda’s best interest. So it seems they will vote for the Bill over the real interests of the people of Uganda. I have never understood why the U.S. did not apply the revocation of AGOA and other sanctions a long time ago as Uganda’s serious human rights abuses have been reported, year after year, in the Department of State’s Annual Human Rights reports, including the latest 2022 report. These abuses are referred to here in a previous article.
In the meantime Uganda’s activists and human rights defender have vowed to fight the constitutionality of the bill in the courts, noting they fully support these sanctions as they have nothing to lose this time, having been used to scapegoat the real ills of the country, to include corruption, autocracy, failed democracy and dictatorship of a President who has held office for over 33 years.
When all is said and done, whether this Bill land gazette or not, Uganda’s LGBTQI community will continue to be the punch bag of Uganda. Here at African Human Rights Coalition we are overwhelmed with reports of threats, intimidation, evictions, abuse, blackmail, assaults, unlawful detentions, torture, police arrests with forced anal exams, with many of Uganda’s LGBTQI+ community fleeing their own country for safety.
THE LETTER FROM SENATOR RON WYDEN TO SECRETARY OF STATE BLINKEN:
The Reality of The Death Penalty in Uganda:
In Uganda the penalty is death by hanging, which is the standard method of execution in Uganda. The death sentence used to be mandatory, meaning that upon conviction for the offense of murder, death was the only sentence possible. In 2019 Uganda has changed that law to make the death penalty non-mandatory. The AHA 2023 has now passed a mandatory death penalty for so called "aggravated homosexuality", as defined in the ACT. This could be dangerously subject to further definition as yet to be described or subject to interpretation, as legislation always is. Whether this is constitutional or not will be tested in the courts. This can still be changed by Parliament. No one should hang for who they love! No human has the right to this judgment.
LIE: Gays goal is to recruit you and your children into homosexuality - FACT: Not scientifically possible LIE: Gays promote homosexuality FACT: Gays provide services to help LGBTI navigate specific physical and mental health wellbeing
LIE: Gays are pedophiles Fact: By sheer numbers more straight people are pedophiles than gay people, yet their are no laws barring their relationships LIE: The Western colonizers have brought homosexuality to Uganda and it is Un-African FACT: The West brought homophobia to Africa, not homosexuality, through Colonization and draconian Penal Codes, and the religious zealot Evangelicals are recolonizing Africa, using Christianity to bring death to gays through anti-biblical human judgment. All humans are the same and so to call any form of human sexuality UN-AFRICAN is to dehumanize Africans. LIE: Gays are deviants FACT: LGBTI people are predominantly good people, just like straight people. We are moms, dads, doctors, CEO's, lawyers, nurses, philanthropists, humanitarians, engineers, laborers, teachers, professors, pilots - living good and productive lives, all around the world ....and the list goes on ....
UGANDA'S CHOICE AND so Uganda - join the world where your assertions have been proved wrong.. do not isolate behind the hang mans rope - as the greatest sin of all - the greatest human crime will be when you the parliamentarians pen the death of your fellow Ugandans based on a BIG LIE. You will be judged ultimately by your creator - not be the sanctions that will exclude you.
MELANIE NATHAN: nathan@africanHRC.org, ED of African Human Rights Coalition Is a Country Conditions Expert witness for lGBTQI+ people seeking asylum in the United States.