U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has ordered his agency to update its travel guidance to Uganda in the wake of the east African nation’s approval of a draconian new anti-homosexual law.
In a statement released late Monday, Blinken said he has also ordered State Department officials to consider using existing restrictions tools against Ugandan officials and other individuals “for abuse of universal human rights, including the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons.”
The top U.S. diplomat says 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 refugees.”
Members of Uganda’s LGBTQ community were in shock following the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, signed into law Monday by President Yoweri Museveni. They called for its repeal and filed a notice Monday with the country’s attorney general about their intention to bring the matter to court.
Critics say the law, which allows life imprisonment and the death penalty in some cases, is draconian and the world’s harshest.
The new law clarifies that identifying as gay would not be criminalised but says that “engaging in acts of homosexuality” is punishable with life imprisonment.
The law also imposes the death penalty for what it calls “aggravated homosexuality.” This includes sexual relations involving people infected with HIV, as well as sex with people categorized as vulnerable, including minors and the elderly.
Any Ugandan who does not report such cases is liable on conviction to spend five years in prison or pay a fine of 10 million Ugandan shillings, about $2,680.
In addition, the law says journalists and other media figures face five years in prison if they disclose the identity of a victim of a homosexual act without the authority of the court or that person.