Anne Githuku Shonge

UNAIDS has warned that the just passed Anti-Homosexuality Bill will have extremely damaging consequences for public health, by curtailing the human rights of people living with HIV and some of the most vulnerable people of Uganda to access life-saving services.

On Tuesday, Parliament passed Anti homosexuality bill which seeks to protect traditional families by prohibiting sexual relationships between people of the same sex, strengthening that country’s capacity to deal with emerging threats to the traditional family, protecting the cherished culture of Uganda and protecting children and youth who are vulnerable to sexual abuse.

It also seeks to criminalise same-sex relationships with a liability of imprisonment of two to 10 years for homosexuality, aggravated homosexuality, attempted homosexuality, aiding and abetting homosexuality, conspiracy to commit homosexuality and other related practices.

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UNAIDS East and Southern Africa Director Anne Githuku-Shongwe said If enacted, this law will undermine Uganda’s efforts to end AIDS by 2030, by violating fundamental human rights including the right to health and the very right to life.    It will drive communities away from life-saving services, and obstruct health workers, including civil society groups, from providing HIV prevention, testing and treatment.  

She said the evidence is crystal clear; the institutionalization of discrimination and stigma will further push vulnerable communities away from life-saving health services. Research in sub-Saharan Africa shows that in countries which criminalize homosexuality HIV prevalence is five times higher among men who have sex with men than it is in countries without such laws. 

“This law, if enacted, will hurt Ugandans. It will cost lives and it will drive up new HIV infections. We urge the Government to not enact this harmful law,” she said.

The harmful Bill stands in marked contrast to a positive wave of decriminalization taking place in Africa and across the world, in which harmful punitive colonial legislation is being removed in country after country. Decriminalisation saves lives and benefits everyone.

She said although the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been passed by parliament, it is not yet enacted as a law and can, in the interest of promoting public health and equal rights of Ugandan citizens, be rejected by the President. It is not too late for this Bill to be rejected and lives to be saved.  

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