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Home / Press Release / White House Takes New Steps to Protect the Human Rights of Uganda’s LGBT Community
June 19, 2014

White House Takes New Steps to Protect the Human Rights of Uganda’s LGBT Community

Washington, D.C.  - Human Rights First said today that the response by the White House to Uganda’s discriminatory Anti-Homosexuality Act, which was enacted in April of this year, is an important step forward in demonstrating American leadership on human rights, including the protection of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Human Rights First called for the United States to review  its relationship with Uganda when President Museveni signed into law the Anti-Homosexuality Act that calls for sentences up to life in prison for “aggravated homosexuality.”  

Today’s announcement demonstrates that the administration understands how Uganda’s attack on basic human rights complicates a U.S.-Ugandan partnership, and Human Rights First praises the administration's steps, including placing new visa bans on “certain Uganda officials involved in serious human rights abuses, including against LGBT individuals,” discontinuing funding to Ugandan police forces involved in abuses, and re-directing funding for health projects to institutions that share a regard for science. President Museveni signed the law when he said he reviewed evidence proving that people choose to be gay or lesbian. 

“We compliment the administration for its thorough evaluation of U.S. programs in Uganda, and believe the steps announced today will send a message to the Ugandan Government and others that scapegoating or targeting LGBT people is a violation of basic human rights and creates an unstable and dangerous environment, “said Human Rights First’s Robyn Lieberman. “The enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act has led to increasing violence and harassment of Uganda’s LGBT community, and we hope that the State Department, in carrying out the visa bans, will make it clear that those who participate in human rights abuses will be held to account.”   

President Obama issued a call for the review earlier this year. Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act introduced penalties of up to 14 years imprisonment for first time convictions and possible life imprisonment for those convicted of so-called “aggravated homosexuality.” Since the enactment of this legislation there has been an alarming increase in the number of documented cases of violence and discrimination perpetrated against LGBT Ugandans and closure of much-needed health clinics. There has also been an increase in the number of Ugandans fleeing the country to seek asylum in other nations.

The president will have another opportunity to address his concern for human rights in specific African nations during the African Leaders Summit set to take place on August 4 and 5 in Washington. African human rights defenders are in Washington this week and next to urge the administration to actively involve civil society leaders in the Summit to advocate for basic human rights principles, including protection of marginalized populations, such as LGBT people.   

Human Rights First urges the Obama Administration to undergo regular diplomatic reviews of U.S. policy in nations that have enacted laws or regulations that systematically violate human rights, including that of LGBT citizens. Human Rights First opposes the use of U.S. funding for any institution or group that is abusing human rights, including actively discriminating against the LGBT community, and supports increased assistance to civil society groups and organizations working to protect the human rights and well-being of their citizens. The organization also calls on the United States to continue to monitor patterns of hate crime against LGBT people worldwide, and address impunity for violent acts.

In Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan has enacted the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which calls for prison terms of up to 14 years for same-sex marriage and 10 years in prison for any person who “aids and abets” same-sex marriage, serves as a witness to same-sex marriage, or operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organizations directly or indirectly.

“We are still waiting for an appropriate international response in Nigeria,” added Lieberman. 

For more information or to speak with Lieberman, contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at 212-845-5269 or margolisme@humanrightsfirst.org