The passing of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act by Uganda’s Parliament in March 2023, has attracted worldwide attention to the issue of criminalisation of our communities, in particular LGBTIQ+ people.
Since then, Uganda is witnessing a true humanitarian crisis, as the law is fuelling stigma, discrimination and violence targeting people because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Yet, Uganda is not an isolated case.
For years, we have called out a deliberate strategy implemented across Africa by global anti-gender and anti-rights movements, supported by governments, media, and education sectors, and characterised with defamatory and populist rhetoric targeting specific communities.
This human rights crisis is spreading rapidly across the continent, with countries like Kenya, Burundi, Ghana, Senegal or Tanzania, considering surrogates of the Ugandan law, which directly contributes to the closure of civic space, disruptions in HIV/AIDS and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) programming, ultimately threatening community livelihoods.
Forty years of AIDS response has taught us that punitive and discriminatory laws targeting communities of key populations lead to substantially higher prevalence of HIV and reduced access to testing and viral suppression. Structural barriers such as criminalisation of key populations results in further stigma and discrimination, thus creating significant barriers to HIV prevention and treatment services, while jeopardising decades of investments by the global community. Enacting punitive and discriminatory laws, against evidence and against commitments taken in the global AIDS response, further acts as a deterrent to foreign direct investments and international support in the countries themselves, thus undermining sustainable economic development and broader well-being of all citizens.
As Love Alliance, in the same spirit of togetherness, support and resilience, we applaud the brave individuals and organisations, which despite the challenges that LGBTIQ+ individuals face, are demonstrating extraordinary courage in the face of adversity. We praise activists who have initiated litigation to challenge the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 (AHA 2023) and hope the Constitutional Court will demonstrate its independence by repealing this retrograde piece of legislation and ensure the right to health for all.
This resilience is a testament to the power of love and hope, and we will continue to work hand in hand with them, tirelessly, to break down barriers and promote inclusivity. We stand in solidarity with communities in their fight for human rights, and we will not rest until everyone is treated equally, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and until we end stigma and discrimination.
Given the broader span of this grave human rights crisis, we believe the response should go beyond Uganda and address the challenges faced by LGBTIQ+ individuals throughout Africa.
As Love Alliance, in order to effectively meet the relief needs of our communities, we are evaluating our response mechanisms and will scale up our support to communities in the light of this unprecedented crisis. Together, we will work towards ensuring that everyone has access to the healthcare they deserve, particularly SRHR, HIV and human rights-based services.
We call on partners and funders such as UNAIDS, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to expand investments in funding for service delivery and advocacy in defiance of the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill, but also and future similar bills under consideration in other countries across Africa. In doing this, a particular focus should be put on increasing funding for LGBTIQ+ and other key populations platforms and mechanisms, whose efforts are pivotal in organising a coordinated community-led response and mitigating the harmful impact of this human rights crisis on access to services and on the right to health for all.
We appeal to leaders of foreign governments to outline clear diplomatic consequences for Uganda in response to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and for other countries that are considering replicating it. Donors should immediately announce comprehensive reviews of all aspects of their funding to Uganda, including by considering strategic aid cuts to specific sectors that have failed to demonstrate respect for human rights, while ensuring that the people do not suffer the consequences of harmful political decisions of the government. Donors should urgently direct funding to community-led organisations and human rights defenders, to support programmes that aim to protect civic space, challenge stigma and discrimination and uphold human rights for all.
The journey towards equality and the recognition of LGBTIQ+ rights may be long but the unwavering hope and resilience demonstrated by communities keep us moving forward. We stand by the side of our communities in the pursuit of a future where everyone has the freedom to express their true selves, and enjoys equal access to healthcare and a life free of discrimination. Together, we are making it a reality.