Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Law Cannot Stand

A court ruling upholding the law not only will discourage people from accessing HIV care, but also violates basic human rights

By Robert Kessler

Uganda’s Constitutional Court recently had a chance to reverse a travesty of justice, but, in an April 3rd ruling, it upheld key components of the nation’s oppressive 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Act. Portions of the law were struck down by the court: restrictions on healthcare access for LGBTQ+ people, the criminalization of renting or providing spaces to LGBTQ+ people, and the obligation of citizens to report homosexual acts to authorities.

In striking from the law a provision requiring citizens to report LGBTQ+ neighbors, friends, and family to the state, the court acknowledged Ugandans’ “right to health, privacy, and freedom of religion.” But the changes do not go so far as to protect those rights by leaving unaltered the portions of the legislation that prohibit same-sex sexual activity and LGBTQ+ identification.

While the annulment of certain provisions of the law lessens its negative impact on the provision of HIV services for LGBTQ+ Ugandans and the 1.6 million Ugandans living with HIV, the court did not address the law’s perpetuation of a culture of fear, discrimination, and violence that discourages access to lifesaving HIV prevention and treatment services.

Since the law went into effect last year, it has already had a grave effect on HIV services in Uganda. The number of clients using drop-in centers that provide HIV prevention and treatment to those who need them most, including men who have sex with men, has dropped from an average of 40 per week to just two.

amfAR is disappointed with the decision of the court and with the American evangelical influence that helped to foster the law’s drafting in the first place. We urge governments and NGOs to take action in order to encourage Uganda to reverse course on this human rights violation.

Robert Kessler is amfAR’s Program Communications Manager.

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