US restricts Ugandan officials travel in wake of anti-LGBTQ law

US President Biden had previously said said cuts and sanctions were possible in response to the law.

Homosexuality had already been illegal in Uganda prior to new law, which imposes death penalty for transmitting HIV through gay sex [Abubaker Lubowa/Reuters]

The United States has imposed travel restrictions on Ugandan officials in the wake of an anti-LGBTQ law signed by President Yoweri Museveni last month.

The law has been condemned as one of the harshest in the world. Among other provisions, it instated the death penalty for someone convicted of “aggravated homosexuality”, an offence that includes transmitting HIV through gay sex.

It also carried a life sentence for same-sex intercourse and a 20-year sentence for promoting homosexuality.

In a brief release on Friday, US Department of State spokesman Matthew Miller said the measures were in response to human rights abuses – “including those of LGBTQI+ persons” – and corruption.

It further referenced the law, dubbed the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023, saying the Department of State has “also updated its travel guidance to US citizens to highlight the risk that LGBTQI+ persons, or those perceived to be LGBTQI+, could be prosecuted and subjected to life imprisonment or the death penalty based on provisions in the law”.

“The United States strongly supports the Ugandan people and remains committed to advancing respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Uganda and globally,” Miller said.

The statement did not say which officials would be subject to the restrictions or provide further details.

Homosexuality had been already illegal in the conservative and highly religious East African country, and observers said homosexuals faced ostracism and harassment by security forces.

The law further imposed fines for media and non-governmental organisations that knowingly promote LGBTQ activity.

US President Joe Biden had last month called the latest move by Uganda’s government “a tragic violation of universal human rights” and threatened aid cuts and other sanctions. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month the government would consider visa restrictions against Ugandan officials.

The US was among several countries that cut aid to Uganda in 2014 for a previous anti-LGBTQ law. That law was later struck down on procedural grounds.

Several Western countries and UN experts have condemned the law.

In March, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the law “is contrary to international human rights law and to Uganda’s obligations under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, including commitments on dignity and non-discrimination, and the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also said the law was “deeply concerning”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies