- March 14, 2014
- News & Analysis
Earlier this week a diverse coalition of Ugandans including human rights defenders, LGBTI activists, parliamentarians, and public health advocates filed a challenge to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA), signed into law by President Museveni on February 24. Groups such as the Ugandan Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law and Human Rights Watch have written extensively on why the AHA is an attack on the human rights of all Ugandans, but a quick summary is worth repeating. Most obviously, the bill institutes draconian restrictions on the rights of LGBTI individuals, including a life imprisonment sentence for same-sex conduct. Less well known are provisions in the bill that violate “basic constitutionally protected rights to privacy, family life, and equality” and rights to freedom of expression and association. Such provisions could be used to imprison and intimidate a wide range of human rights defenders, public health advocates, and opponents to President Museveni’s ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.
The passage of the AHA is part of a disturbing trend of repression in Uganda, which includes the NRM’s “public order management” legislation and its refusal give the opposition a level playing field in elections. Seen in this context, the AHA is clearly intended to strengthen Museveni’s increasingly autocratic regime. Though the constitutional challenge filed this week makes a strong case against the legislation, the decision could take months and judges could be swayed by public and government pressure in support of the bill.
The Obama Administration has strongly condemned the bill, which has made it more difficult for the US to collaborate with Uganda around issues of shared concern such as the LRA. On February 24, Secretary Kerry announced the Administration was conducting an internal review of all dimensions of its engagement with Uganda.