TCEN statement on passage of Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda

Mar 24, 2023

The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN) is devastated to learn of the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. We stand in solidarity with LGBTI+ Ugandans, who were already criminalised and now face even harsher penalties simply for being who they are.

As has been highlighted by human rights experts both within and outside Uganda, enacting this Bill would lead to multiple breaches of the country’s human rights obligations, which are enshrined both in the Ugandan constitution and under international law. We therefore urge President Museveni to use his discretion and veto this Bill. 

We also call on the Commonwealth Secretariat and on other Commonwealth governments to speak out against this Bill and to remind the Ugandan Government of its human rights obligations under both its constitution and international treaties which it is a signatory to, as well as its commitments to tolerance, respect and understanding under the Commonwealth Charter.  

If enacted, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would criminalise someone simply for stating that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. It would also criminalise individuals and organisations who provide support to LGBTI+ people, including TCEN member organisation Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). Put simply, this Bill violates the basic rights of Ugandan citizens who are or are perceived to be LGBTI+ to live their lives free from discrimination and persecution.

The proponents of this Bill claim that they are protecting Ugandans from ‘un-African’ or ‘Western’ ideas about sexuality and gender identity. Yet the brave LGBTI+ Ugandans who we work with and whose rights are now being infringed are definitely not being protected by this Bill, nor are they un-African.  

Under the long shadow of state homophobia instituted during colonial rule, LGBTI+ people in many Commonwealth countries continue to face significant infringements to their human rights. Yet progress has been made: in the last decade we have seen eleven Commonwealth states repeal discriminatory laws which criminalised consensual same-sex relationships.

This Bill has passed against a backdrop of rising anti-LGBTI+ sentiment across many parts of the Commonwealth. We are fearful that its passage will embolden anti-LGBTI+ rights actors in other Commonwealth states who may seek to enact similar draconian legislation, as well as encouraging people who commit violence against our communities. 

We call on the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to remind the Ugandan government of its obligation under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which requires them to protect everyone from human rights abuse and to dismantle all forms of discrimination.

It is vital that leaders across Africa stand up for minorities and recognise the interconnectedness of oppression and liberation, so we ask them to speak out about the human rights violations enabled by this Bill. And we call on African human rights institutions, the wider international community and on allies everywhere to speak up loudly and repeatedly for the human rights of LGBTI+ people in Uganda and across the Commonwealth.

To our LGBTI+ siblings in Uganda: we share your devastation at the passage of this Bill. We see you, we stand with you and we will continue to work alongside you to ensure this bill, and all other laws which persecute and discriminate against our communities, is overturned.