White House suggests Uganda could face sanctions if ‘extreme’ LGBTQ+ ban bill becomes law

Karine Jean-Pierre in the White House press room.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the US has grave concerns about Uganda’s new anti-LGBTQ+ bill.

Jean-Pierre spoke during a press briefing on Wednesday (22 March), after Uganda’s parliament approved a bill that could see people facing long jail sentences – possibly life – simply for identifying as gay.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill has caused international dismay for the extreme punishments it carries. It introduces a crime of so-called “aggravated homosexuality”, which carries the death penalty.

Friends and family members would also be expected to turn in LGBTQ+ people if they were a in same-sex relationship.

“If the [bill] is signed into law and enacted, it would impinge upon universal human rights, jeopardise progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, deter tourism and [investment] in Uganda and damage Uganda’s international reputation,” Jean-Pierre said.

“It is one of the most extreme anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the world. Human rights are universal, no one should be attacked or imprisoned simply because of who they are and who they love.”

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The press secretary suggested the US could implement economic sanctions if Uganda signs the bill into law.

“That would be really unfortunate because so much of the economic assistance that we provide Uganda is health assistance, and largely through [the president’s emergency plan for AIDS relief],” the press secretary continued.

“We’re certainly watching this closely and we’ll have to take a look whether or not there would be repercussions, perhaps in an economic way, if this law were to be passed and enacted.”

President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni has called gay people ‘disgusting’

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. (Getty)

The bill, having been approved by parliament, now sits on the desk of president Yoweri Museveni.

He has been urged by the UN to veto the bill. However, Museveni holds firm anti-LGBTQ+ views, and earlier this month described gay people as “deviants”.

Museveni recently congratulated so-called “believers” for rejecting homosexuality.

Uganda has one of the lowest tolerance rates towards LGBTQ+ people, and it is common for queer people to be victims of brutal violent attack

While the new bill further criminalises LGBTQ+ people, same-sex relations were already outlawed and queer people are routinely targeted by officials.

Same-sex marriage, which has never been permitted, was constitutionally banned in 2005.

A 2014 law introduced a crime of “attempting to commit homosexuality”, and made the maximum penalty for same-sex relations life in prison. The law was overturned on procedural grounds – the new bill follows directly on from it.

Some politicians wanted the new bill to go even further. During the hearing on Tuesday (21 March) in which it was passed, MP Sarah Opendi called for gay men to be castrated before going into prison.

“Life imprisonment is not adequate because this person is going to go into the prison and continue living his life, maybe even continuing with homosexuality in the prison,” she said.

“These people should be castrated.”