Uganda’s anti-LGBTQ+ law sees horrific spike in abuse

A person in Uganda wears an LGBTQ+ Progressive Pride flag draped around their shoulders as they hold their hands in front of them in prayer

Uganda this year reinstated itself as one of the harshest anti-LGBTQ+ states in the world with the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) in May.

The bill upholds the criminalisation of gay sex and introduced the death penalty for what is described as “aggravated homosexuality” – which the bill describes as having sex with a minor, having sex while HIV positive, or engaging in incest.

After the bill was passed, there was an outcry from LGBTQ+ rights groups and human rights organisations across the globe, warning that abuse against LGBTQ+ people would skyrocket as a result of the bill.

Now, those warnings have been realised, according to a new report from a committee of the Convening for Equality (CFE) coalition.

Protestors stand next to a uniformed officer, holding red signs that read "drop the anti-gay bill."
Uganda’s anti-gay law allows for capital punishment for ‘aggravated homosexuality’. (Getty Images)

The report, published on Thursday (28 September) and seen by Reuters, found that the enactment of the AHA was, as predicted, putting LGBTQ+ people in danger – but that danger was mostly coming from private individuals rather than government authorities.

From the beginning of 1 January to 31 August 2023, researchers have recorded 306 rights violations in Uganda based on the victims’ sexual orientation and gender identity. Of those cases, just 25 were performed by state actors.

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The report also noted that their research could not be considered exhaustive due to the difficulties that LGBTQ+ people face in reporting anti-LGBTQ+ abuse.

In comparison, state actors were responsible for almost 70 per cent of rights violations against LGBTQ+ people in both 2022 and 2021, the report states.

The study links this spike in anti-LGBTQ+ abuse by private individuals to the passage of the AHA, which has reportedly radicalised members of the public.

President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni
President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni signed the AHA legislation earlier this year. (Getty Images)

In one example, the report documents a recent increase in mob-aided arrests in Uganda “because AHA has put LGBTQ+ persons on the spot as persons of interest, and the public seems to be custodians of enforcing the witch hunt.”

Queer Ugandan human rights activist Arthur Kayima has branded the AHA as vile and said: “Rather than focusing on the real issues Uganda is facing, Museveni [causes] distraction by attacking our fundamental right to exist”.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden labeled the bill a “tragic violation” of human rights, adding that Washington would evaluate the law’s implications “on all aspects of US engagement with Uganda [including the] application of sanctions and restriction of entry [against anyone involved in] serious human rights abuses or corruption.”

The US State Department also issued revised travel guidance to Uganda, citing “crime, terrorism and anti-LGBTQI+ legislation.”