Administration Steps Up Pressure on Uganda to Repeal Its Anti-Gay Laws

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
June 19 2014 5:10 PM

Obama Administration Increases Pressure on Uganda to End Repression of Gays

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Ugandan Foreign Minister and U.N. General Assembly President Sam Kutesa.

Photo by STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

The Obama administration today announced additional sanctions to pressure Uganda to reconsider the horrific anti-gay law enacted in February. Back then, President Barack Obama condemned the legislation, declaring it “an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda” that reflected “poorly on Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people.” In April, the administration suspended about $20 million worth of aid programs.

Today’s moves reflect an awareness that slashing aid to developing countries can sometimes boost the popularity of leaders who present themselves as standing up to colonialist Western powers and their bullying ways. In late March, when Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni appeared at a rally in Kampala, he denounced homosexuals and international aid with equal fervor. 

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Consequently, the newly announced sanctions are precisely targeted: a community policing program will be discontinued; funding for medical and science programs will be redirected to nongovernmental partners; an international meeting scheduled to take place in Uganda will be relocated to South Africa; and a military exercise will be canceled. Most interesting is the news that some Ugandans will be refused entry to the United States, specifically, “individuals involved in serious violations or abuses of human rights, including those determined to have committed such violations or abuses against LGBT individuals.” Citing “confidentiality requirements,” the administration didn’t provide any names, so it is unclear if Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa, who was recently elected president of this September’s U.N. General Assembly, is on the list.

According to “From Torment to Tyranny,” a report released by Ugandan human rights groups earlier this month, the Anti-Homosexuality Act “has given permission to a culture of extreme and violent homophobia whereby both state and non-state actors are free to persecute Uganda’s LGBTI people with impunity. These include violent attacks, arbitrary arrests, blackmail, evictions and a concerted effort to drive LGBTI civil society underground.”

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 

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