EUPHA Joined WFPHA to Stand in Solidarity with the Ugandan LGBT Community – Denounce the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act (2023)
May 5, 2023
On March 21, 2023, the Ugandan Parliament passed the Anti-Homosexuality Act (2023). By criminalizing same-sex conduct, the Act criminalizes all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Ugandans, the provision of services to LGBT Ugandans, and the dissemination of information about the LGBT community. The Act also requires Ugandans to report any individual who is suspected of being LGBT and forbids the sheltering of a LGBT person. The Act also provides for the death penalty for the crime of ‘aggravated homosexuality’. By undermining access to medical services by at-risk populations, the Act also threatens to undermine Uganda’s proud record of HIV prevention and control built over three decades. President Museveni has agreed to assent to the Act after changes are made regarding ‘rehabilitation’.
LGBT persons have existed throughout human history and across cultures. Natural variations of sexual orientation and gender identity exist regardless of enacted laws and policies. Beyond the direct and obvious consequences that the law will have on the health and human rights of those prosecuted, it will also have broader detrimental public health impacts. Research has shown that structural anti-LGBT legal climates further promote hostility, violence, and harassment against LGBT individuals (Hatzenbuehler et al. 2019; Van der Star et al. 2020) as well as directly jeopardize a plethora of health outcomes across the entire community, including psychological distress (Van der Star et al. 2021), life satisfaction and wellbeing (Van der Star & Bränström, 2015; Pachankis & Bränström, 2018), risk for psychiatric disorders (Hatzenbuehler et al. 2010), and suicidal ideation (Pachankis et al. 2021).
In addition to these direct ramifications for LGBT health in Uganda, the negative public anti-LGBT discourse surrounding the Act may also instigate harassment and discrimination (Hatzenbuehler et al. 2019) as well as reduce psychological wellbeing (Frost & Fingerhut, 2016) among LGBT Ugandans and their families, friends, and close communities.
In 1995, Uganda acceded to the United Nations’ (UN) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR; UN Treaty Collection, 2023). For some 30 years, the Covenant has been interpreted to include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and sex characteristics (UN OHCHR, 2019). UN legal experts have stated that the imposition of the death penalty based on the Act is per se an arbitrary killing and a breach of article 6 of the ICCPR (UN OHCHR, 2023). An official Ugandan Parliamentary briefing on the Bill incorrectly asserted that international law does not apply because the Constitution of Uganda ‘specifically bars sexual acts between sexual minorities’, while it does not. As a matter of international law, no country’s national constitution or other laws can be assumed to override its international legal obligations.
The European Public Health Association (EUPHA) has joined the WFPHA to call on the Ugandan President, Parliament and Government to foster an inclusive and safe environment for all citizens, while safeguarding the human rights of each individual, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity.