Joe Biden threatens Uganda with sanctions after anti-gay legislation could prescribe death penalty

Joe Biden called for the 'immediate repeal' of the law on Monday. Credit: AP

US President Joe Biden has condemned his Ugandan counterpart for signing into law new anti-gay legislation.

The US is now considering deploying sanctions against those from Uganda for abuse of universal human rights.

The version of the bill signed by President Yoweri Museveni does not criminalise those who identify as LGBTQ+, a key concern for some rights campaigners who condemned an earlier draft of the legislation as an egregious attack on human rights.

But the new law still prescribes the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” defined as cases of sexual relations involving people infected with HIV, as well as with minors and other categories of vulnerable people.

A suspect convicted of “attempted aggravated homosexuality” can be imprisoned for up to 14 years, according to the legislation.

Downing Street has already branded the law "appalling” and “deeply discriminatory".

A new version of the bill has been signed by President Yoweri Museveni. Credit: AP

Mr Biden called for the "immediate repeal" of the law on Monday, warning he may impose sanctions and other penalties in response, such as visa restriction tools against Ugandan officials.

"This shameful Act is the latest development in an alarming trend of human rights abuses and corruption in Uganda," Mr Biden said in a statement.

"The dangers posed by this democratic backsliding are a threat to everyone residing in Uganda, including US government personnel, the staff of our implementing partners, tourists, members of the business community, and others."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also said in a statement on Monday night that the State Department "will develop mechanisms to support the rights of LGBTQI+ individuals in Uganda and to promote accountability for Ugandan officials and other individuals responsible for, or complicit in, abusing their human rights."

Mr Biden described the bill as 'shameful'. Credit: AP

He added the department is updating its "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."

Another considered sanction is whether the US will continue to safely deliver services under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Mr Biden's administration will also review Uganda's Eligibility for the African Growth an Opportunity Act, which provides eligible sub-Saharan African countries with duty-free access to the US market for hundreds of products.

The President added: "And we are considering additional steps, including the application of sanctions and restriction of entry into the United States against anyone involved in serious human rights abuses or corruption."

The United Nations Human Rights Office said it was “appalled that the draconian and discriminatory anti-gay bill is now law," describing the legislation as "a recipe for systematic violations of the rights" of LGBTQ+ people and others.

In a joint statement the leaders of the UN AIDS program, the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Global Fund said they were “deeply concerned about the harmful impact” of the legislation on public health and the HIV response.

“Uganda’s progress on its HIV response is now in grave jeopardy,” the statement said.

“The Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 will obstruct health education and the outreach that can help end AIDS as a public health threat.”

Rights activists have the option of appealing the legislation before the courts.

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