Tag Archives: International politics

Outlawing LGBTQ+ Rights in 2023: The Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda

by Shiva Ivaturi

Image: Sally Hayden/ZUMA/imago images


“Of course, homosexuals are disgusting”, said President Yoweri Musaveni of Uganda to a CNN correspondent in 2016. The subject of much controversy, at the time individuals simply thought of this as an incredibly disparaging and blatantly homophobic remark. Yet, it has culminated into a law today that is believed to be the most oppressive modern-day law against LGBTQ+ individuals in the world.

The proposed 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced in Uganda, that would have criminalized homosexuality with sentences of life imprisonment. The bill also targeted those who promote homosexuality or fail to report homosexual activities to the authorities, including medical professionals and human rights advocates. The bill generated widespread international condemnation, with many countries, including the United States, threatening to cut off aid to Uganda if the bill was passed (Al Jazeera, 2014).

On March 9, 2023, Asuman Basalirwa, a member of parliament, introduced the 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Parliament (Atuhaire, 2023). This bill is a revised and more extreme version of the 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Act. The 2023 bill, however, expands on the criminalization of same-sex acts and is considered one of the most extreme anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the world (Human Rights Watch, 2023). Its provisions include criminalizing people for holding out as a lesbian, gay, transgender, or any other sexual or gender identity that is not in line with the binary categories of male and female (BBC News, 2023).

The 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Bill follows months of hostile rhetoric against sexual and gender minorities by public figures in Uganda, as well as government crackdowns on LGBTQ+ rights groups, human rights groups, government critics, and civil society (Human Rights Watch, 2023). Uganda’s penal code already punishes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature,” which is interpreted to mean homosexual relations, with a punishment of life in prison, although the provision is rarely enforced (Shaw, 2023). In introducing the bill, Basaliriwa said its purpose was to “look at this colonial law and have it in tandem with the current situation” (BBC News, 2023).

What is the law?

The maximum penalty for homosexual acts is life imprisonment, while the maximum penalty for attempted homosexual acts is imprisonment for 10 years. Furthermore, people convicted of homosexuality or attempted homosexuality cannot be employed in childcare facilities even after their release. Knowingly renting premises to people who wish to engage in homosexual acts on such premises is punishable by imprisonment for 10 years. The maximum penalty for promoting homosexuality is imprisonment for 10 years. Purporting to contract a same-sex marriage, as well as knowingly attending a purported same-sex marriage ceremony, would also result in imprisonment for up to 10 years (Atuhaire, 2023).

Moreover, the bill would make it a crime to “promote” homosexuality, which could include anything from expressing support for LGBTQ+ rights to providing health care services to members of the community. This provision would have far-reaching implications, as it would effectively criminalize the work of LGBTQ+ organizations and healthcare providers who offer critical services to a marginalized community (Human Rights Watch, 2023).

The bill also contains a provision that would require individuals to report any knowledge of homosexual activity or risk facing imprisonment for up to six months. This requirement would apply to a wide range of individuals, including doctors, teachers, and parents, and could create a culture of suspicion and fear that would make it even more difficult for LGBTQ+ individuals to seek out support and care (Shaw, 2023).

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, has called the bill “devastating and deeply disturbing” and urged President Museveni not to sign it into law. In a statement, Türk said that the adoption of such a discriminatory bill was a “deeply troubling development” and warned that it would have far-reaching consequences for human rights and the rule of law in Uganda (Muhumuza, 2023; Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2023).

What is the law based on?

The 2023 Anti Homosexuality Bill in Uganda aims to “protect the traditional family” through measures that, according to the bill, strengthen the nation’s capacity to deal with emerging internal and external threats to the traditional, heterosexual family (Human Rights Watch, 2023). Literature evaluating the effects of changes in legal recognition of same-sex couples on heterosexual marriage in the U.S. found that same-sex marriage had no meaningful effect on individuals in different-sex households (Shaw, 2023). Additionally, studies from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and the Netherlands have shown that extending relationship recognition to same-sex couples had no obvious impact on the marriage rates or divorce rates of different-sex couples (Shaw, 2023).

In Uganda, there has often been a notion that homosexuality makes children and youth vulnerable to sexual abuse. Research suggests that most pedophiles who prey upon young people identify as heterosexual, and their victims are more likely to be female (BBC News, 2023). Moreover, research has found that children raised by gay or lesbian parents are as well-adjusted psychologically, emotionally, and socially as children raised by heterosexual parents (Human Rights Watch, 2023; Shaw, 2023). The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Sociological Association both agree that children raised by same-sex parents fare just as well as children raised by different-sex parents (Shaw, 2023).

Another major notion fundamentally assumed by the bill is that same-sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic. While there is little consensus on the exact reasons why an individual has a heterosexual or homosexual orientation, current scientific and professional consensus reflects the understanding that homosexuality is not a choice, but rather a complex interplay of genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural factors (Shaw, 2023). Therefore, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s recognition that same-sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic is not supported by scientific research.

The 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Bill is a deeply concerning piece of legislation that represents a significant setback for human rights and the rule of law in Uganda (Human Rights Watch, 2023). Its provisions have now criminalized same-sex relationships and identities, stigmatized LGBTQ+ individuals, and created a culture of fear and suspicion that are already making it difficult for individuals across the country to seek out care.

International condemnation of the bill has been swift and unequivocal, with human rights organizations and governments around the world calling on Uganda to abandon the legislation (Al Jazeera, 2014; Muhumuza, 2023; Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2023; Stout, 2023). Ultimately, these efforts were not successful as the bill was signed into law.


The anti-homosexuality law in Uganda will have devastating effects on the LGBTQ+ community, with individuals facing persecution, violence, and even death (Human Rights Watch, 2023). Frank Mugisha, Uganda’s most prominent LGBTQ+ rights activist, has experienced firsthand the dangers of being openly gay in Uganda. He explains, “The Ugandan population has been radicalised to fear and hate homosexuals” (Reuters, 2023). This anti-gay sentiment has been fanned by politicians and religious organizations, culminating in the passage of a bill that would criminalize even identifying as LGBTQ+ (Atuhaire, 2023). The bill, which Mugisha fears will be signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni, would punish the “promotion” of homosexuality with up to 20 years in prison and impose the death penalty for so-called aggravated homosexuality, including having gay sex while HIV-positive (Atuhaire, 2023; Human Rights Watch, 2023).

Mugisha has received numerous death threats and has even had a colleague and friend, David Kato, bludgeoned to death in 2011 (Al Jazeera, 2014). Mugisha refuses to back down despite the dangers he faces, saying, “I guess I am going to be in trouble a lot because I am not going to stop” (Reuters, 2023). He feels a sense of obligation to fight for the rights of LGBTQ+ Ugandans, many of whom have fled the country or their homes for safe houses since the bill was passed (Reuters, 2023). Mugisha believes that the anti-gay sentiment is not Ugandan but is Western in nature, citing that homosexuality was first outlawed under British colonial rule and that Ugandan individuals were initially wary of homosexuality but did not have the intent to harm homosexual individuals under the full force of the law (Reuters, 2023).

Mugisha’s story highlights the immense bravery and resilience of the LGBTQ+ community in Uganda, who continue to fight for their rights despite facing immense persecution. As he explains, “Looking at this legislation, I do not think it will survive” (Reuters, 2023). We must support the efforts of activists like Mugisha and stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community in Uganda and around the world, fighting against discrimination and hate.

Works Cited

Uganda: New anti-gay bill further threatens rights. Human Rights Watch. (2023, March 9). Retrieved April 9, 2023, from https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/03/09/uganda-new-anti-gay-bill-further-threatens-rights

Al Jazeera. (2014, June 20). Uganda Aid Cut over anti-gay law. News | Al Jazeera. Retrieved April 9, 2023, from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2014/6/20/us-cuts-aid-to-uganda-over-anti-gay-law

Atuhaire, P. (2023, March 22). Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill: Life in prison for saying you’re gay. BBC News. Retrieved April 9, 2023, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-65034343

Muhumuza, R. (2023, March 22). Un rights chief calls Uganda anti-gay Bill ‘deeply troubling’. PBS. Retrieved April 9, 2023, from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/un-rights-chief-calls-uganda-anti-gay-bill-deeply-troubling

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. (2023, March 22). Uganda: Türk urges president not to sign shocking anti-homosexuality Bill. United Nations. Retrieved April 9, 2023, from https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2023/03/uganda-turk-urges president-not-sign-shocking-anti-homosexuality-bill

Reuters. (2023, April 13). Ugandan LGBTQ activist readies for the fight of his life. Reuters. Retrieved April 16, 2023, from https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/ugandan-lgbtq-activist-readies-fight-his-life-2023-04-13/

Stout, N. (2023, March 22). White House threatens to pull aid to Uganda over anti-LGBTQ bill. Courthouse News Service. Retrieved April 9, 2023, from https://www.courthousenews.com/white-house-threatens-to-pull-aid-to-uganda-over-anti-lgbtq-bill/

Shaw, A. (2023, April 5). Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2023. Williams Institute. Retrieved April 9, 2023, from https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/uganda-anti-homosexuality-2023/

Crimes of Humanity

by Saba Brittain

On the 10th of January of 2023, the trial of 24 individuals involved in volunteering humanitarian assistance to migrants on the shores of Greece began (Kennedy 2023). This trial appears to follow the trend of European authorities targeting humanitarian workers to discourage solidarity with migrants and deter the arrival of refugees to Europe (Kennedy 2023).

The defendants face serious charges for their work at the Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI), a Greek non-profit organisation that provides emergency aid in dangerous environments. Operating on the Greek island of Lesbos, the “crimes” committed at the ERCI include assisting people whose lives are at risk, searching and rescuing migrant boats in distress, assisting migrant boats on the shoreline (Kitsantonis 2023).

The defendants are accused of facilitating illegal migration to Europe, these accusations have drawn widespread criticism among international human rights organizations. Their charges include espionage, forgery, involvement in a criminal organization, people-smuggling, money laundering and other “farcical” accusations according to Amnesty International (Kitsantonis 2023).

The accusations of espionage condemn the defendants’ initiatives of monitoring local radio channels to learn the whereabouts of migrant boats in distress. (Smith, 2023). The money-laundering allegations incriminate fundraising efforts for the ERCI organization (Smith 2023).

“I am not a people smuggler”, says Sarah Mardini during an interview with BBC, a human rights activist accused of criminal activity and people smuggling following her lifesaving work at the Emergency Response Centre International (BBC 2018). She is one of the 24 defendants on trial and is herself a refugee from Syria (BBC 2018).

A European Parliament report has described this trial as the “largest case of criminalization of solidarity in Europe” (Aljazeera 2023). Many other critiques have suggested this trial is indicative of the efforts to discourage the work of migrant rights defenders and organizations, and deter refugees from coming to Europe (Amnesty International 2022). Simply put, the compassion and solidarity driving the action of the volunteers has been weaponized and criminalized (Amnesty International 2022).

In addition to creating a hostile and insecure environment for human rights volunteers showing solidarity to migrants, this trial delays the work of the ERCI organization. A UN human rights expert suggested that a guilty verdict for the defendants could lead to more migrant deaths at sea (OHCHR 2021). Along with this trial in Greece, several other prosecutions have been set in motion across Europe against NGOs and individuals. Considering the thousands of migrant deaths at sea every year, the effects of these sorts of trials must not be overlooked. Many are calling upon Greek prosecutors to drop all charges against the 24 individuals. (Amnesty International 2022).

Works Cited

“Greece: Guilty Verdict for Migrant Rights Defenders Could Mean More Deaths at Sea – UN Expert.” OHCHR, 18 Nov. 2021, www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2022/01/greece-guilty-verdict-migrant-rights-defenders-could-mean-more-deaths-sea-un.

“Greece: Migrant Rescue Trial to Begin.” Human Rights Watch, 22 Dec. 2022, www.hrw.org/news/2022/12/22/greece-migrant-rescue-trial-begin.

“Solidarity on Trial in Europe.” Amnesty International, 6 May 2022, www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2020/03/free-to-help/.

Al Jazeera. “Drop All Charges against Refugee Aid Workers, UN Tells Greece.” Migration News | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 13 Jan. 2023, www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/1/13/un-asks-greece-drop-charges-in-syrian-migrant-rescuer-trial.

Kennedy, Niamh. “They Saved Refugees Stranded at Sea. Now They’re on Trial.” CNN, Cable News Network, 10 Jan. 2023, www.cnn.com/2023/01/10/europe/migrant-aid-workers-mardini-binder-trial-intl/index.html.

Kitsantonis, Niki. “Greece Opens Espionage Trial of Aid Workers Who Helped Migrants.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 Jan. 2023, www.nytimes.com/2023/01/10/world/europe/greece-trial-migrants.html?searchResultPosition=1.

Smith, Helen. “Long-Awaited Trial of 24 Aid Workers Accused of Espionage Starts in Lesbos.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 13 Jan. 2023, www.theguardian.com/global-development/2023/jan/13/long-awaited-trial-of-24-aid-workers-accused-of-espionage-starts-in-lesbos.

Indian Prime Minister Modi Bans BBC Documentary While Allegations of Human Rights Violations Still Mount

by Nesane Nakanthiran

On January 17, the BBC aired a documentary detailing the rise of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and it closely connected the political figure to the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in the Western state of Gujarat, which constituted one of the worst outbreaks of religious violence in recent Indian history.  Subsequently, the Indian government imposed an emergency law which banned the documentary and any of its screenings—even in universities. Unsurprisingly, heavy policing and brutal arrests took place across several campuses as students began protesting against the ban.

As leader of the Hindu nationalist, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s largest right-wing party, PM Modi has been haunted for decades due to his inaction and complicity throughout the riots, although he still refuses to take proportionate accountability.

In fact, this was not his first time using the emergency law, nor his first time facing allegations of violating human rights. International human rights organizations and advocates have long been calling upon European leaders to address Modi’s “growing abuses and discriminatory policies” (Molander 2022). For example, BJP-led states have seen increasing illegal demolitions of Muslim properties, while Indian authorities have seen a heavy crackdown on students, journalists, civil society, human rights activists, and others who prove either critical towards the state or work to defend human rights amongst vulnerable communities (Molander 2022). Indeed, PM Modi even sanctions the increased use of intrusive technologies, such as Israeli-produced spyware, to curtail human rights and freedom of expression —a decision which proves unsurprising from the BJP leader.

The 2002 anti-Muslim riots took place in response to the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims. Local citizens had blamed the 59 deaths on Gujarat’s Muslims, which led to instances of religious violence claiming over 1,000 lives. At the time, Modi was the Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat, and thus, Muslim criticisms against the current Indian PM are substantial. Furthermore, police are accused of standing by while Modi faced such criticisms, perhaps even supporting Hindu extremists throughout the riots. Specifically, the documentary highlights an “unpublished report from the U.K. Foreign Office that claims Modi was ‘directly responsible’ for the ‘climate of impunity’ that enabled the violence” (Syed 2023), despite the leader’s supporters citing a 2013 Supreme Court ruling “insufficient evidence to prosecute.”

PM Modi is not alone in facing immense backlash for his use of censorship. By invoking emergency laws on Twitter and YouTube, Twitter CEO and self-proclaimed saviour of free speech, Elon Musk, has come under criticism for carrying out acts which proved contradictory to his public campaign against censorship throughout his Twitter takeover. To be clear, emergency laws extend government censorship over social media companies, which would explain how Twitter and YouTube had their hands tied. Yet, this does not diminish the Indian government’s violations against democracy, free speech, and human rights—rather, it only further substantiates the dangers of granting unchecked authority over media to a powerful few.

Currently, the emergency law remains enforced across Twitter and YouTube, and Indian police continue to crack down on illegal screenings of the documentary.

Works Cited

Ellis-Petersen, Hannah. 2023. “India invokes emergency laws to ban BBC Modi documentary.” The Guardian, January 23, 2023. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jan/23/india-emergency-laws-to-ban-bbc-narendra-modi-documentary

Hussain, Murtaza and Ryan Grim. 2023. “Elon Musk Caves to Pressure from India to Remove BBC Doc Critical of Modi.” The Intercept, January 24, 2023. https://theintercept.com/2023/01/24/twitter-elon-musk-modi-india-bbc/

Molander, Måns. 2022. “European Leaders Should Raise Human Rights Concerns with Modi.” Human Rights Watch, May 3, 2022. https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/05/03/european-leaders-should-raise-human-rights-concerns-modi

Syed, Armani. 2023. “India Banned a BBC Documentary Critical of Modi. Here’s How People Are Watching Anyway.” Time, January 26, 2023. https://time.com/6250480/bbc-modi-documentary-skirting-censors/