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From the Community of Democracies Civil Society Pillar Chair and the Secretariat, we express our deep concerns about Uganda’s recently passed Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023 and urge President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni not to sign it into law. 

On 21 March 2023, the Ugandan Parliament approved the harsh anti-homosexuality bill, which aims to prohibit and impose prison sentences on people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, transgender or queer, and those who defend and support their rights. In addition, this proposed law criminalizes consensual sexual activity and marriages between adults of the same sex by proposing long prison sentences of between five and ten years approximately and even the death penalty. 

This bill not only jeopardizes LGBTQI+ people’s human rights but also exacerbates and legitimizes their continued harassment and stigmatization. We believe that if adopted into law, this bill will seriously violate international human rights and constitutional standards on the right to life, the right to equality, the right against discrimination, the right to privacy, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the freedom of association among other human rights. 

Apart from going against the letter and spirit of Uganda’s Constitution, this bill  also undermines rights protected by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), in particular, articles 2, 9, 10, 11, 16, 19 and 20;  the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights  (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). 

We are concerned that some law-makers in Uganda have been trying to perpetuate violence and discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community for years through different bills like the anti-homosexuality bill 2023. Over the past 15 years, at least four so-called “anti-homosexuality laws” have been proposed in 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2014. These bills have raised serious concerns about their propensity to violate well established human rights standards. As the Civil Society Pillar of the Community of Democracies we are also concerned about the negative impacts the bill will have on civil society activities in the country and the potential for its misuse to target those who express democratic dissent. 

Having mentioned the above, we, the Community of Democracies Civil Society Pillar, urge Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to reject this bill in the interests of respecting human rights, accepting diversity and countering the institutionalization of discrimination and prejudice against LGBTQI+ people. Furthermore, we call on all stakeholders, including civil society, governments, and the private sector, to join efforts to promote social inclusion and respect for human rights.