(CN) — The White House is considering restricting aid to Uganda and imposing sanctions after the African country enacted a law criminalizing the behavior of LGBTQ+ people.
Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signed into law Monday a measure that criminalizes “engaging in acts of homosexuality,” a move that brought widespread criticism and threatens critical international aid.
Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for east and southern Africa, said the “deeply repressive law is a grave assault on human rights.”
“The Anti-Homosexuality Bill … will do nothing other than enshrine discrimination, hatred and prejudice against LGBTI Ugandans and their allies into law,” he said. “It’s unconscionable that they risk losing their lives, their freedom, their privacy, their freedom of expression and their ability to live free from discrimination.”
President Joe Biden said the law is “a tragic violation of universal human rights” and “jeopardizes the prospects of critical economic growth for the entire country.”
“This shameful act is the latest development in an alarming trend of human rights abuses and corruption in Uganda,” Biden said in a statement. “The dangers posed by this democratic backsliding are a threat to everyone residing in Uganda, including U.S. government personnel, the staff of our implementing partners, tourists, members of the business community, and others.”
Museveni vetoed an earlier version of the bill, but the measure he signed Monday was only changed slightly to remove penalties for identifying as LGBTQ+, but engaging in same-sex relations is punishable by life imprisonment, according to The Africa Report.
The law carries the death penalty for what is described as “aggravated homosexuality" – offenses involving minors and other vulnerable people. A person convicted of "attempted aggravated homosexuality" faces 14 years behind bars.
The law also threatens prosecution and imprisonment for people and institutions, including the media, that distribute any conduct that advocates gay rights or “promotes homosexuality.”
The United States provides more than $950 million in aid to Uganda each year, according to the State Department, and Biden directed the National Security Council to “evaluate the implications of this law on all aspects of U.S. engagement with Uganda.” Officials will examine relief targeted for AIDS and economic development and are considering sanctions and travel restrictions.
“The scale of our commitments speaks to the value we place on this partnership — and our faith in the people of Uganda to build for themselves a better future,” Biden said. “It is my sincere hope that we can continue to build on this progress, together, and strengthen protections for the human rights of people everywhere.”
At Biden’s direction, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said his department will consider updating travel guidance for U.S. citizens and imposing visa restrictions on Ugandan officials and others for human rights abuses.
“Uganda’s failure to safeguard the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons is part of a broader degradation of human rights protections that puts Ugandan citizens at risk and damages the country’s reputation as a destination for investment, development, tourism, and refugee,” Blinken said in a statement.
Uganda was already among 30 African countries that ban same-sex relations. Supporters of the law say it is needed to punish a broad array of LGBTQ+ activities allegedly threatening traditional values in the religious country.
“As Parliament of Uganda, we have heeded the concerns of our people and legislated to protect the sanctity of family,” Anita Among, speaker of the Uganda parliament, said in a statement to The Africa Report. “We have stood strong to defend the culture, values and aspirations of our people.”
Among’s visa was reportedly revoked by the U.S. shortly after the law was signed.
In a rare show of bipartisanship, Biden was joined in his condemnation by many Republicans, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
"This Uganda law is horrific & wrong. Any law criminalizing homosexuality or imposing the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’ is grotesque & an abomination," Cruz tweeted on Monday. "ALL civilized nations should join together in condemning this human rights abuse."
The United Nations Human Rights Office said the law “requires urgent judicial review.”
“We are appalled that the draconian and discriminatory anti-gay bill is now law,” the office tweeted. “It is a recipe for systematic violations of the rights of LGBT people & the wider population.”Follow @TheNolanStout
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