The recent arrest and subjection of LGBTQ activists in Uganda to demeaning physical examinations and threats of prosecution is a violation of their human rights and a setback in the concerted campaign to decrease the impact of HIV among key populations in Africa.
Human Rights Watch includes Uganda as one of 68 countries worldwide that still have laws that criminalize same-sex relations involving consenting adults. These laws sanction the ongoing persecution of sexual minorities and are incompatible with a human rights culture that respects all irrespective of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, culture and language.
This discriminatory colonial era legislation promotes societal hatred against LGBTQ+ people and the brutalisation of a minority population. It also undermines the work of many organisations in Africa and elsewhere in the world who are attempting to reach key populations who are most vulnerable to the HIV epidemic in order to prevent the spread of the epidemic and provide treatment for those infected with HIV.
DTHF COO Dr. Linda-Gail Bekker says that laws criminalizing same-sex relations are dangerous and undermine all efforts to bring health epidemics under control. “We know that criminalising behaviours and making services illegal and therefore inaccessible to some leads to public health disasters. Aside from the human rights issue, which is of course compelling on its own, these politically motivated laws make absolutely no public health sense”.
Without government support and enabling legislation, many, including the most vulnerable will suffer as a result of stigma and hatred. We urge all countries in Africa to join Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique and South Africa in freeing our continent from discrimination by decriminalizing same-sex activity.