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UNAIDS’ Byanyima speaks, staunchly condemns Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law  

(Last Updated On: 29 May 2023)

Kampala, May 29, 2023: On May 2, 2023, Uganda Parliament passed “a new version” of the Anti-homosexuality Bill 2023” after it was rejected by President Museveni.

In the two Parliamentary sittings, the MPs overwhelmingly showed their support for the Bill (now a Law) – amid both national and international appeals to retract it. However, after passing it under the leadership of speaker Annet Among, it was just a matter of time for President Museveni to assent to it.

On Monday, May 29, it became a Law.

From Geneva, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Winnie Byanyima spoke to the UK’s SkyNews a few hours after the Bill was made a Law. Below is what she said.

“This Law undermines the HIV response in Uganda because people living with HIV who happens to be also gay, transgender women will be further discriminated, there will be further discrimination and they will be pushed away from services that could save their lives and yet they are Ugandans too.

“This Law sets us back in efforts to end AIDS. You can’t end AIDS unless everyone can be reached by services of prevention and treatment. The second point is that it is a violation of human rights. Gender is not seen as binary by young people today. Sexuality is fluid for many young people today including Ugandan people. This is men and women, laying down the law for the young people whom they have not even consulted. So it is a violation of the rights of the sexual minority particularly young people who see themselves and their sexuality as different from say me in my 60s.

“Third, Uganda is part of a global economy. We are on an economic trajectory as a country producing, wanting to produce and sell oil on the global market, manufacture products and sell them on the global market. So we are attracting foreign direct investments, we are attracting trade flows between us and other countries.

“This Law is going to make it difficult for global companies that are hosted in countries that do not discriminate against sexual minorities to bring their resources and work in Uganda.

“This Law will make it difficult for all companies that are required by their laws not to discriminate to deploy people everywhere in the world will have to see how they can work in Uganda where there are laws that banish people from being who they are, loving who they love.

“We as United Nations too have to think about protecting our own staff who may be working in Uganda and are gay, or transgender because we don’t ask are you gay before we give them a job – we just put out an advert and there are people on the ground, unless they happen to get the job in Uganda we can’t stop them from working there and neither so we must think about how do you protect them from such a harsh law that banishes them from being who they are, for loving partners that they may have in their lives. So in every way, as a human rights issue, as an issue of growth and trade, global cooperation of Uganda’s economy, this law undermines all those objectives.

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“It’s unfortunate; it’s a sad day in Uganda,” she added.

There has been an international condemnation but do you think donor countries should go farther and sanction Uganda?

“That is a complicated question because if you apply economic sanctions you hurt the very people whom this aw hurts. So, one has to think carefully about how to engage Uganda to repeal this law or at least apply a non-enforcement policy for the law. It is so important to engage Uganda constructively about the negative consequences on the economy and human rights implications. Engaging Uganda is important. Use of aids as a sanction – aid is a blank tool to use in such cases. It is not the way to work. The way it works is to engage Uganda, the government to do the right thing for its people.”

Do you think given that Museveni has signed this into Law we are going to see other countries in the region looking at their laws and say ‘We should make ours tougher?’

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From Geneva, she spoke to SkyNews.

“…what you are seeing is that the general trend is towards decriminalization. Only 67 countries remain with such harsh-punitive, out-to-date laws. However, Uganda has taken the opposite direction and we do see cultural wars being waged on the African continent and they are really just an instrument, they are being instrumentalized in a war that is bigger than that, that is a more geopolitical war between the East and the West and culture is being used.

“Women’s rights, women’s bodies once again being put on the front-line for a political war. So, we are engaging with other African countries and many of them are looking at this question with more realism, rationality noting that process that was used in Uganda where the parliament was literally mauling anyone with a minority view, where emotions and loudness and names calling was used to pass a law that is going to hurt people’s lives.

“Others countries we are engaging with them we are looking at this rationally and understanding the implication, the economic, health, social, human rights and we are working with them constructively to see how to protect the rights of minorities in countries where traditions and culture actually see this issue differently but they have a minority to protect – we are working with them,” UNAIDS chief said.

Texts have been generated by Milton Emmy Akwam

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