WASHINGTON — The White House announced Thursday that it will impose further penalties against Uganda after its president signed a law that toughens punishments against gays and defines some homosexual acts as crimes punishable by life in prison.
The admnistration will prevent Ugandan officials involved in serious human rights abuses, including against LGBT individuals, into the United States; discontinue or redirect money for certain programs involving the Ugandan Police Force, Ministry of Health and National Public Health Institute; and cancel plans to hold a U.S. military-sponsored aviation exercise in Uganda.
“None of these steps diminishes our commitment to providing development and humanitarian support for the Ugandan people, or our partnership with the Ugandan government to counter the murderous Lord’s Resistance Army and improve security in Africa,” said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council. “We will seek to advance these interests even as we continue—in Uganda and around the world—to oppose discriminatory practices and champion human rights for all.”
In February, the administration said it was reassessing its relationship with Uganda after that President Yoweri Museveni, signed the bill in law. Two months later, it annouunced an initial responses.
In many African nations, homosexuality can – and does – lead to arrest, harassment, discrimination, even death. Africans have been harassed, discriminated against in health care, housing and employment and attacked because of real or perceived sexual orientation, according to a report released last year by Amnesty International. In some countries, people are arrested after being reported to police as being gay, sometimes leading to invasive medical exams as police search for evidence of same-sex conduct.
As president, Barack Obama has endorsed same-sex marriage, repealed a military requirement that service members keep their sexual orientation secret and offered gay federal employees family leave.
Human rights groups urged Obama to speak publicly about the growing wave of homophobia while he was in the continent last year, pressing nations to ensure the safety and rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.
Human Rights First called Thursday’s announcement by the White House “an important step forward in demonstrating American leadership on human rights, including the protection of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.”
“We...believe the steps announced today will send a message to the Ugandan government and others that scapegoating or targeting LGBT people is a violation of basic human rights and creates an unstable and dangerous environment,” said Human Rights First’s Robyn Lieberman.