The US may restrict visas issued to Ugandan officials in its latest condemnation to the African country’s enactment of stringent – and highly controversial – anti-LGBTQ+ laws.
Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, said that Joe Biden’s White House is “deeply troubled” by the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which was signed into law by Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s president, on Monday. Blinken said that he was looking to “promote accountability” for Ugandan officials who have violated the rights of LGBTQ+ people, with possible measures including the curtailment of visas.
“I have also directed the department to update our travel guidance to American citizens and to US businesses as well as to consider deploying existing visa restrictions tools against Ugandan officials and other individuals for abuse of universal human rights, including the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons,” Blinken said in a statement.
Uganda’s government has faced widespread criticism over the new laws, with the EU, human rights groups and LGBTQ+ organizations all calling for it to be reversed. Biden, who has raised the possibility of sanctions against Uganda, has called the law a “tragic violation of universal human rights” while Volker Turk, the UN high commissioner for human rights, described the law as “devastating”.
Homosexual acts were already illegal in Uganda but now those convicted face life imprisonment under the new laws, with the legislation imposing the death penalty for “aggravated” cases, such as gay sex involving someone below the age of 18. People convicted of “promoting” homosexuality face 20 years in prison, with Human Rights Watch noting the bill essentially criminalizes “merely identifying” as LGBTQ+.
Anita Among, Uganda’s parliamentary speaker, said on the Twitter the new law will “protect the sanctity of the family”.
“We have stood strong to defend the culture, values and aspirations of our people,” Among said.
But the measure appears to have bipartisan disapproval in the US, with the Republican senator Ted Cruz calling the law “horrific and wrong”. Cruz wrote on Twitter: “Any law criminalizing homosexuality or imposing the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’ is grotesque & an abomination. ALL civilized nations should join together in condemning this human rights abuse.#LGBTQ”
Cruz’s remarks drew out some domestic detractors because fellow Republican lawmakers in Texas – his home state – have this year promoted bills banning puberty blockers and hormone therapy for transgender children. They have also sought to limit classroom lessons on sexual orientation and the college sports teams that trans athletes can join.
Meanwhile, Ron DeSantis, the Florida Republican governor who is running for US president, has overseen the so-called “don’t say gay” law in his state, prohibiting discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in classrooms, a ban on people from entering bathrooms other than their sex assigned at birth and a crackdown on children seeing drag artists.