Could International Pressure have the Potential to Halt the Passage of Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill?

A blog post by Natalie Drainville, Senior Associate 

A new bill has recently been introduced by the Ugandan parliament, which has become known as the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill”, which makes it a criminal act, punishable by life in prison or even death, to identify as gay in the country.[1]

The final version of the bill has not yet been officially published, but the elements decided on by lawmakers include the following: Individuals/institutions which support or fund LGBT rights’ activities or organizations, or publish, broadcast and distribute pro-gay media material and literature, face prosecution and imprisonment; Media groups, journalists and publishers may be prosecuted and imprisoned for publishing, broadcasting, or distributing content of any kind that advocates for gay rights or “promotes homosexuality”; Property owners also risk being jailed if their premises are found to have been used as a dwelling for homosexual acts or any other sexual minorities rights’ activities.[2] In addition to these elements, parliament also discussed imposing a duty on friends, family, and members of the community to report individuals in same-sex relationships to the authorities.[3]

The bill was introduced in March 2023, giving Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni 30 days to assent or reject the bill.[4] If the bill is to become law, then it will violate the rights to liberty, privacy, equality, freedom from discrimination, freedom of expression and association, and a fair hearing, which are guaranteed to all citizens under Ugandan and International law.[5]

The Commissioner for Human Rights for the United Nations, Volker Türk, stated that the Ugandan bill was “draconian” and deeply disturbing, and that its implementation would be devastating.[6] The Commissioner urged Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni not to sign the bill into law, stating that it would be a systematic violation of nearly all Ugandan human rights and serve to pit people against each other.[7]

In addition, to the United Nations, the United States has also expressed its outrage at the introduction of this bill. The U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, spoke out against the bill stating that it would “undermine fundamental human rights of all Ugandans and could reverse gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”[8] Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, spoke with the Ugandan President twice in the month of March to express her deep concern about the proposed bill.[9] The U.S. National Security Council spokesman, John Kirby, also stated publicly that if the law were enacted then the U.S. would have to look into imposing economic sanctions on Uganda, which would be unfortunate as most U.S. aid provided is in the form of health assistance, especially in the area of anti-AIDs.[10]

The international reaction to this bill seems to be the same consensus, that the bill is an infringement on the human rights of Ugandan citizens. The Ugandan President has not yet decided whether or not he will pass the bill, but the pressure from the U.N. and U.S. could play a potential role in his decision.

[1] Oryem Nyeko, Ugandan Parliament Passes Extreme Anti-LGBT Bill,, (March 22, 2023)

[2] Patience Atuhaire, Uganda Anti-Homosexuality bill: Life in prison for saying you’re gay, BBC News, (March 22, 2023)

[3] Id.

[4] Oryem Nyeko, Ugandan Parliament Passes Extreme Anti-LGBT Bill,, (March 22, 2023)

[5] Id.

[6] Uganda: Turk urges President not to sign shocking anti-homosexuality bill, United Nations, (March 22, 2023),

[7] Id.

[8] Larry Madowo, Nimi Princewill and Catherine Nicholls, UN and US join chorus of condemnation against Uganda’s hardline anti-LGBT bill, CNN, (March 22, 2023)

[9] Id.

[10] Rodney Muhumuza, UN rights chief calls Uganda anti-gay bill ‘deeply troubling’, PBS, (March 22, 2023)

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