IBAHRI Co-Chairs' statement on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023

Wednesday 14 June 2023

A statement from the Co-Chairs of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) on Uganda’s new anti-homosexuality law:

The IBAHRI condemns the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023, which President Yoweri Museveni signed into law on 26 May 2023, in the strongest possible terms. Parliamentary amendments to the legislation on 2 May 2023 have not averted the disastrous effects that this law will have on the fundamental rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (or queer) and intersex plus (LGBTQI+) persons and their communities in Uganda, including, inter alia, the rights to life, privacy, equality and non-discrimination. Criminalisation operates to exclude those impacted in fulfilling their role in society.

The Act represents an unacceptable intrusion into the private lives of consenting adults. Consensual adult relations should never be criminalised. Furthermore, the Act retains the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’ (Section 3), the definition of which includes ‘serial offender[s]’ and where ‘the person against whom the offence is committed is a person with disability’. International law is emphatic that the death penalty, to the extent it is permitted, may only be imposed for the most serious crimes involving intentional killing. As highlighted by the UN Human Rights Committee, ‘under no circumstances can the death penalty ever be applied as a sanction against conduct the very criminalization of which violates the Covenant’, including homosexuality.

Furthermore, the IBAHRI expresses solidarity with LGBTQI+ persons and communities in Uganda. Since the initial passage of this bill, reports of violence and discrimination against persons in Uganda who are or are perceived to be LGBTQI+ have increased.

The IBAHRI notes that under Section 11 of the Act, the vaguely worded offence of ‘promotion of homosexuality’ carries a potential sentence of 20 years imprisonment. This infringes on the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, and will threaten and have a chilling effect on media outlets and workers, civil society and human rights activists, as well as further isolate LGBTQI+ persons.

The IBAHRI understands that two petitions challenging the Act have been filed before the Constitutional Court of Uganda. We call on the Constitutional Court to uphold Uganda’s human rights obligations under, inter alia, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights by invalidating the law.

Anne Ramberg Dr Jur hc
Co-Chair, IBAHRI and Immediate Past Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association

Mark Stephens CBE
Co-Chair, IBAHRI

Notes to the Editor 

  1. Related material:
  2. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), established in 1995 under Founding Honorary President Nelson Mandela, is an autonomous entity working to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
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  4. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.

    The IBA acts as a connector, enabler, and influencer, for the administration of justice, fair practice, and accountability worldwide. The IBA has collaborated on a broad range of ground-breaking, international projects with the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, The Commonwealth, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others.

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For further information, please contact: the IBA Human Rights Institute at IBAHRI@int-bar.org