Ugandan anti-gay law is a threat to the rights of LGBTQ+ sex workers and will reverse the hard-won gain in sex workers’ HIV response in Africa. 

We are deeply saddened that the Ugandan President Museveni has assented the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023. This is a devastating blow to our #LGBTIQ+ sex workers in Uganda as it is a tragic violation of their human rights and threatens to reverse the country’s hard-won gain in sex workers’ HIV response.

The African Sex Worker Alliance (ASWA) is a Pan African Alliance of 160 sex worker-led organisations that exist to strengthen their voices, to empower and to advocate for and advance the health and human rights of female, male, LGBTIQ, young and migrant sex workers including those living with HIV and using drugs through networking, movement building and development of partnerships. ASWA has membership drawn from 35 African countries including Uganda.

ASWA has a deep commitment to amplify sex workers voices in Uganda. For more than 15 years, we have worked together to help sex workers in their diversity in Uganda to have their rights respected, protected and promoted.

We are therefore, gravely concerned about the content of the bill.

Overview of the bill

  1. Person convicted of aggravated homosexuality (which includes sex when the “offender” is a person living with HIV)-death 
  2. Person who commits the offence of homosexuality – 20 years 
  3. Person convicted of promotion of homosexuality – 20 years 
  4. Person recruiting children into homosexuality-20 years 
  5. Person who has committed the attempted aggravated homosexuality – 14 years 
  6. Person who has been convicted of attempted homosexuality – 10 years 
  7. The owner of the premises that promote homosexuality – 10 years 
  8. Child found guilty of homosexuality -3 years

 

After the Anti-Homosexuality Act was tabled in the parliament, reports of violence and discrimination targeting sex workers who are LGBTQI+ have escalated. There has been increased incidents of malicious online and offline comments, profiling of LGBTQ+ sex workers. Their personal details as well as their family members are being openly shared and intimidated online, violating the right to privacy and human dignity.

Some have been evicted from where they stay, where they work and where they hang out. And the confirmation of serious threats—including death, lengthy prison sentences, violence, abuse—threatens our innocent community who want nothing more than to live their lives and work in safety and security.

We also express alarm at the misinformation and disinformation about the incorrect perception of sexual orientation being propagated by the President and the law makers of Uganda.

Similar laws have been proposed in Ghana and Kenya. In July 2021, members of Ghana’s parliament proposed the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill. In April 2023, a Kenyan member of parliament introduced a Family Protection Bill. Among other things, it prohibits sexual health services and sexual health rights education.

The aftermath of the bill is that the community has become hesitant to visit health care centers and is therefore not receiving HIV and other health services, for fear of being targeted with violence.

We commend the brave Ugandans who filed a petition at the Uganda Constitutional Court against the Anti-Homosexuality Act (2023). We join them in resisting against this state-instigated homophobia.

According to UNAIDS, in 2021, key populations (gay men and other men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, trans people, and sex workers) and their sexual partners accounted for 51% of new HIV acquisitions in Central, Eastern, Southern and Western Africa. There is an urgent need for Uganda government to work with, not against, LGBTQ+ who are most vulnerable to HIV.

Additionally, in 2021, the UN adopted a Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS that committed member states, including Uganda to “ensure that less than 10% of countries have punitive legal and policy environments that create barriers to accessing HIV services” by 2025. However, in Uganda, this goal will not be realized with the assent to the bill.

The Regional Coordinator of the African Sex Workers Alliance (ASWA) Grace Kamau said “ASWA calls for international sanctions, including travel sanctions on the govt of Uganda, issuance of travel advisories for Uganda and PEPFAR and Global Fund to withdrawal their support to Uganda’s Key Population HIV intervention.The Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act (2023) will drive away LGBTQ sex workers from accessing HIV and other health services. We join our community in calling for its immediate repeal.’’

We strongly condemn the passing of this bill as it is a gross violation of our community’s human rights and undermines an effective HIV and health response.

We call on President Museveni to repeal the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023, and other Uganda’s laws and policies which are restrictive, punitive, and discriminatory to our community. This will provide a legal environment that is conducive for our community to safely access HIV and other health services.

We also call for the law and policy makers and implementers in Uganda to make, implement and enforce laws that protect and uphold the human rights of sex workers in their diversity.

 

Twitter Handles 

@UNHumanRights,@GlobalFund,@UNWatch,#HumanRights #LGBTQ #repeal #AHB23

#SayNoToAHB23, @KagutaMuseveni, #AHB23 #Humanrightstosexworkers,@UnesoUganda,@ladymermaidUg

The statement in PDF English Version here:

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