US officially warns LGBTQ+ people against travel to Uganda

Protestors stand next to a uniformed officer, holding red signs that read "drop the anti-gay bill."

The US is warning against travel to Uganda, after the East African country introduced a strict new Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The US State Department issued new travel guidance through the US Embassy on 12 June, with Americans urged to “reconsider travel” due to “crime, terrorism, and anti-LGBTQI+ legislation”.

It specifically notes that LGBTQ+ people should cease travel altogether, citing the Anti-Homosexuality Act as the primary cause for concern.

“Those perceived to be LGBTQI+ could be prosecuted and subjected to life imprisonment or death, based on provisions in the law,” the advisory explained.

The Anti-Homosexuality Act, signed in May, makes it illegal to publicly advocate or promote LGBTQ+ rights in Uganda, adding to already stringent laws against consensual same-sex intimacy. Those found guilty can be sentenced to prison.

It also introduces the clause of “aggravated homosexuality,” with a possible death penalty for those convicted of having sex with a minor or while HIV positive.

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US officials said the law’s vague clauses make it ripe for abuse and can mean those who are suspected of identifying as LGBTQ+ could be subject to “mandatory reporting to the police”.

The Embassy gave several recommendations to those who still intend to travel to Uganda.

Some of the 19 recommendations include remaining in a group in public, keeping a low profile, reviewing the Country Security Report for Uganda, and preparing a contingency plan in the case of an emergency.

It also reiterated that any “public identification” with the LGBTQ+ community, even as an ally, could be grounds for prosecution, and that private, consensual same-sex intimacy is strictly illegal.

As well as the increased threat towards LGBTQ+ people, threats of continued terrorist attacks were also noted as a cause for concern.

Attacks in western Uganda in December and the Kampala bombings in 2021, which left at least four people dead and 30 others injured, were just some of the examples the embassy gave.

“While the attacks did not appear to target foreign nationals, anyone can be a victim. US citizens should remain alert and avoid large public gatherings,” it read.

Violent crime also continues to be a major issue within the country, including armed robbery, home invasions and sexual assault.

“[Violent crime] presents a serious threat to those visiting and residing in Uganda and can occur at any time, especially in larger cities, including Kampala and Entebbe, in the Karamoja region, and along Uganda’s western and northern borders,” the warning went on to say.

“Local police may lack appropriate resources to respond effectively to serious crime in most areas.”