U.S. says not satisfied with 'small and insufficient' repeal of anti-gay law clauses

U.S. says not satisfied with 'small and insufficient' repeal of anti-gay law clauses
The anti-gay law was slightly weakened

The US said the remaining provisions of the law pose grave threats to the Ugandans, especially LGBTQI+ community and their allies.

JUSTICE | The US insists the Uganda government should respect the human dignity of all and provide equal protection to all individuals under the law.

In a statement released hours after the Constitutional Court upheld the anti-homosexuality law on Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington continues to be "deeply concerned" by reports of human rights abuses in Uganda, including against the LGBTQI+ community.

The anti-gay law  imposes life imprisonment and the death penalty for those convicted of aggravated same-sex acts.

But the court on Wednesday struck from the May 2023 legislation clauses they said violated constitutional rights.

The particular clauses that criminalise property owners who allow gay sex to happen at their premises, failing to report acts of homosexuality and giving someone a terminal illness through gay sex have been ruled unconstitutional.

"We decline to nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 in its entirety, neither will we grant a permanent injunction against its enforcement," lead judge Richard Buteera said in the summary ruling.

But Blinken said the weakening of the anti-gay law is not enough - the US wants to have the cake and eat it too.

"The announcement that some provisions of the Anti-Homosexuality Act have been removed by the Constitutional Court is a small and insufficient step towards safeguarding human rights," Blinken said in the brief statement.

The US said the remaining provisions of the law pose grave threats to the Ugandans, especially LGBTQI+ community and their allies.

Blinken added that the law undermines public health, clamp down on civic space, damage Uganda’s international reputation, and harm efforts to increase foreign investment.

Sharing out his views shortly after the ruling, veteran journalist and businessman Andrew Mwenda asked the West and donors to stay out of Uganda's sticky anti-homosexuality fight.

"Your involvement with sanctions and travel bans distorts the whole issue, making it like you want to impose your values on Uganda," Mwenda posted on X, former Twitter.

The West - and the US in particular - has been aggressively pushing the LGBT+ agenda over the recent years, tying aid to the rainbow strings even as some donor-dependent governments insist the practice is alien to their culture.

The passing of the legislation in May last year triggered Western sanctions.

The World Bank halted new lending to the country while the US announced visa and travel cautions.

But Mwenda, one of the lead petitioners in Wednesday's case, said the threats of sanctions and travel and visa bans undermine the legitimacy of decisions by judges.

"The public may think (if they annul the law) it’s because you had your guns on their heads," he added.

While the West continues to raise deep concerns over criminalising of same-sex acts in Uganda, the law enjoys big support among the citizens who say they cannot allow values that defile their culture to be imposed on them.

The petitioners were looking forward to another victory on the same law following 2014's annulment by the same court.

But at the time, Attorney-General Kiryowa Kiwanuka said, the decision was based on lack of quorum in Parliament when the Bill was passed.

The petitioners, LGBT+ campaigners and human rights activists argue that the law violates fundamental rights provided in the constitution, such as the right to privacy and freedom from discrimination.

They say they will appeal at the highest court in the land.

"We are going to the Supreme Court and I have full confidence that the judges will stand above our cultural prejudices and protect rights of homosexuals to live their lives as they wish," Mwenda declared outside the court.

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