US slaps sanctions on Uganda over anti-gay laws
WASHINGTON–Angered by anti-gay laws condemned here as “vile persecution,” the United States slapped sanctions on Uganda on Thursday, cancelling a military exercise and imposing visa bans on some officials.
The legislation that Uganda signed into law in February “runs counter to universal human rights and complicates our bilateral relationship,” the White House said, demanding it be repealed.
The law, signed by President Yoweri Museveni, calls for “repeat homosexuals” to be jailed for life, outlaws the promotion of homosexuality and obliges Ugandans to denounce gays to the authorities.
“LGBT rights are human rights and the steps taken today make clear that the United States will take action to defend those rights,” US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said, referring to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
“The discriminatory law in Uganda that criminalizes homosexual status should be repealed, as should laws and policies in the more than 76 countries around the world that criminalize homosexuality.”
Barred from US
Ugandan officials involved in “human rights abuses”–including against the gay community–will be barred entry to the United States, national security council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.
“We are also discontinuing or redirecting funds for certain additional programs,” she added, pointing to schemes with the police force and the health ministry.
The US was also “canceling plans to hold a US military-sponsored aviation exercise in Uganda,” Hayden said in a statement.
She stressed, however, that none of the moves “diminishes our commitment to providing development and humanitarian support for the Ugandan people.”
Nor would the US cut back on its bid to track down “the murderous Lord’s Resistance Army.”
The anti-gay law has drawn international condemnation, with US Secretary of State John Kerry likening it to anti-Semitic legislation in Nazi Germany.
Critics have said Museveni signed the law to win domestic support ahead of a presidential election scheduled for 2016, which will be his 30th year in power.
Rights groups last month reported an increase in “arbitrary arrests, police abuse and extortion, loss of employment, evictions and homelessness” among the gay and lesbian community, adding “scores have fled the country.”
“At least one transgender person has been killed since the bill was signed, in an apparent hate crime,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International said in a joint report in May.
Some 17 people have been arrested since parliament passed the bill in December on “allegations of consensual same-sex conduct with other adults or, in some cases, simply on the suspicion of appearing to be LGBT,” the groups said.
Most have since been released without charge, some after paying bribes, the groups said. Others said they were sexually assaulted in custody, and at least one was forced to undergo anal examinations as police sought to prove he was gay.
With tabloid newspapers printing pictures of dozens of people alleged to be gay, at least 100 have fled the country, and many more have been forced to move home.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday’s announcement “sends a stern signal to the Ugandan government: the United States will not tolerate the vile persecution of LGBT Ugandans.”
The legislation “represents breathtaking ignorance, injustice, and cruelty,” Pelosi said in a statement.
“Such laws have no place in the community of nations, and the government of Uganda should understand that their acts of oppression will only bring increased isolation and reduced economic investment.”–Jo Biddle