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Ugandan MP Denied Visa to the U.S. to Attend UN Commission on the Status of Women

Melanie Nathan, March 6, 2024

Today it was reported in the Guardian that Ugandan MP Sarah Achieng Opendi, who called for homosexuals to be castrated during a parliamentary debate on the world’s harshest anti-LGBTQ+ laws has been denied a visa to attend a UN meeting in New York next week. Opendi expressed “shock” after the US embassy in Kampala rejected her application to travel to the 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women , pending “administrative” review.

Back in June 2023 the United States responded to human rights abuses and corruption in Uganda, the Department of State announces that it is taking steps to impose visa restrictions under Section 212(a)(3)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act on Ugandan individuals believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Uganda.

As directed by President Biden, the U.S. government said it would continue to evaluate additional actions under this policy, "as well as the use of other tools at our disposal, to promote accountability for Ugandan officials and other individuals responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Uganda, abusing human rights, including those of LGBTQI+ persons, or engaging in corrupt practices."

As previewed when the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 was enacted in Uganda at the end of May, the Department also updated its travel guidance to U.S. citizens to highlight the risk that LGBTQI+ persons, or those perceived to be LGBTQI+, could be prosecuted and subjected to life imprisonment or the death penalty based on provisions in the law.

“Ninety-six per cent of MPs voted in favor of the bill and I am aware of a number of MPs that have gotten visas to the US yet they supported the bill,” said Opendi, the chair of Uganda Women Parliamentary Association.

A US state department spokesperson said they cannot discuss individual visa cases.

In December, the US imposed visa restrictions on hundreds of Ugandan lawmakers and their families over their involvement in the legislation, signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni, which imposes the death penalty or life imprisonment for certain same-sex acts and sentences of up to 20 years for “recruitment, promotion and funding” of same-sex “activities”.

Last year, the US and UK denied visas to the parliamentary speaker Anita Among. Activists in Uganda have welcomed the actions.

“They can’t claim to hate homosexuality in their home countries and then go ahead and enjoy life in LGBTQ+ utopias,” he said. “I am glad the US visa ban on Ugandan politicians who violate human rights is working..” Said a Ugandan activist.

Uganda has some of the strictest anti-homosexuality laws in the world – 33 of the 55 African countries have legislation against same-sex relationships.

Kenya, Namibia, Niger, Tanzania and Uganda have moved to tighten anti-gay laws. Last month Ghana passed a bill criminalizing same-sex people for simply BEING ("holding out") as LGBTQA+

Namibia has recently legislated against same-sex marriages and Kenya has a bill before parliament seeking to outlaw same-sex unions.

It is important to note that even countries that have decriminalized homophobia is still rampant as religious taboos and societal judgement still prevails. These laws and those countries with persecutory climates license all or any of the following harms by state and non-state: Beatings, torture, forced anal exams, so called corrective rape, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detentions, prison terms, death penalties, killings, kidnapping, disappearances, blackmail, extortion, reparative therapies, psychological abuse, ostracization, discrimination in marriage and tenancy, firings, evictions, banishment, and expulsions.

There is widespread state-sponsored, and state permitted violence against LGBTI individuals, those imputed or perceived as such, and allies.

All of these forcibly displaces LGBTQI+ people who go into hiding or flee their countries. Safe Shelters are few and far between and are often shut down in these countries. Pathways are limited and dangerous. We need more.... much more. MELANIE NATHAN AHRC: "For all these harms caused by such dangerous rhetoric African Human Rights Coalition fully supports the denial of visas to the USA for al Ugandan Parliamentarians who supported The Kill the Gays Bill."

Contact Country Conditions Expert Witness Melanie Nathan for briefings, reports or testimony at


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