WAS Statement about Ugandan Anti-LGBT Legislation

March 31st, 2023

To the President and the Parliament of Uganda,

The WORLD ASSOCIATION FOR SEXUAL HEALTH (WAS) strongly condemns the bill passed by the Parliament of Uganda criminalising same-sex conduct on March 21, 2023. WAS is seriously concerned about the health, development and human rights impact of this act that: prescribes the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” and life imprisonment for “homosexuality.”

The act defines aggravated homosexuality as same-sex conduct by “serial offenders,” sexual relations with minors, people infected with HIV, and other vulnerable groups. In addition, advocacy or promotion of LGBT rights is punishable by prison terms of up to 20 years, and someone convicted of attempted aggravated homosexuality can be jailed for 14 years.

The proposed Bill violates the fundamental human rights and freedoms of LGBT people, and fair treatment of marginalised groups, including their rights to equality and freedom from discrimination, protection of the right to life, protection of personal liberty, respect for human dignity and protection from inhuman treatment, the right to privacy of persons, protection of freedom of expression, assembly and association, the rights of children and the right to the highest attainable standard of health, which are protected by the Ugandan Constitution and International and Regional Human Rights Treaties that Uganda has ratified.

WAS calls the attention of the President and the Parliament to the undeniable evidence endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other health and human rights entities that demonstrates the fact that criminalisation leads to stigmatisation and discrimination against people because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Among other disparities, lesbian, gay and transgender people are significantly more likely than the general population to be targeted for violence and harassment, to contract HIV, and to be at risk for mental health concerns such as depression and suicide. The criminalisation of same-sex sexuality reduces the likelihood that people perceived as being lesbian, gay and transgender will seek services in the future, including for HIV, and are often discriminated against and ill-treated by medical providers. Such attitudes from healthcare providers make many people reluctant to share personal and medical information, jeopardising their overall health and their access to health services, including those for sexual health.

The right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health includes entitlements to available and accessible healthcare facilities for all people without discrimination on any grounds, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

It also includes freedoms such as the right to have control over one’s own body and to be free from non-consensual medical treatment, experimentation and torture. Sexual orientation and gender identity are recognised as prohibited grounds for discrimination under the international Human Rights treaties that the Ugandan State recognised. Instead of criminalisation, laws can play an important role in providing safeguards and guarantees against discrimination and human rights abuses of any kind on the basis of equality.

WAS calls on the Ugandan President and the Ugandan Parliament to repeal and refuse the approval of the Bill, recognising that the Bill systematically violates human rights standards and severely jeopardises the achievement of public health and development goals. WAS calls for the State of Uganda to refrain from developing similar discriminatory legislative, regulatory, policy and other actions and take concrete steps to promote, protect and fulfil the rights of all its citizens.

WAS is an international organisation with hundreds of professional members across the globe that promotes and advocates for sexual health, development, human rights and social justice throughout the lifespan.

Signed on behalf of WAS by:

Dr Elna Rudolph
PRESIDENT OF THE WORLD ASSOCIATION FOR SEXUAL HEALTH
Medical Doctor and Sexologist, South Africa