Uganda is not a safe and secure place for lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LBTI) people, as their legal rights are not protected, and they are subject to a lot of violence, stigma, and discrimination. Section 145 of the Ugandan Penal Code criminalises consensual same-sex conduct.
In December 2013, the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act was passed to expand the definition and include women as well as increase punishment for “aggravated homosexuality”. However, this law was annulled in August 2014. In May 2021, Uganda reintroduced the criminalisation of same-sex relationships as well as sex work through the passing of the Sexual Offences Bill 2019.
In March 2023, Uganda’s parliament passed a bill that would criminalise identifying as LGBTQ and compel citizens to report those who do to authorities. The bill extends an existing ban on same-sex conduct, further banning “promoting” homosexuality and prescribes the death penalty for certain crimes such as “aggravated homosexuality”
Same-sex marriage and unions are banned under the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act â€” â€œa person who enters into a same-sex marriage contract or civil union liable for 14 years’ imprisonment”. In 2005, President Museveni signed a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage. Clause 2a of Section 31 states: ‘marriage between persons of the same sex is prohibited”.
There is no legislation or constitutional provision that protects LBTI people from discrimination and hate crimes. Transgender people do not have the right to self-identify in Uganda. In fact, Section 381 (1) of the Penal (Amended) Code â€œany person who, with intent to defraud any person, falsely represents himself or herself to be some other person, living or dead, commits a misdemeanour”.
Intersex people in Uganda face many challenges with little to no protection from mutilation and non-consensual cosmetic medical procedures.
Uganda is one of the first countries to have ever received a SOGIESC-specific recommendation from the CEDAW Committee. At the 47th Session, the Committee indicated concern that homosexuality is criminalised in Uganda, that they face discrimination in employment, health care, education, and other fields, and many LBTI people are subject to violence and hate crimes; and lastly, concern on the (then) Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which would marginalise LBTI people further.
The Committee recommended that homosexuality should be decriminalised, and protection provided from violence and intensify efforts to combat discrimination against women on account of their sexual orientation and gender identity, including by launching a sensitisation campaign aimed at the general public, as well as providing appropriate training to law enforcement officials and other relevant actors.
In the LOI in March 2021, Uganda has a few LBTI inclusive questions that use an intersectional lens. This is is in contrast to the LOI from 2010 which had no LBTI-specific questions to the state. The 2021 LOI asked what measures Uganda as a state has put in place or in what ways the last recommendations were going to implemented, especially to provide effective protection from violence and discrimination against women based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and prohibit and combat all forms of discrimination against women on account of their sexual orientation and gender identity, including through public awareness-raising and the provision of training to relevant actors, including law enforcement officials.
It should be noted that the state party reported no data indicating that women have been discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity – this is at odds with data provided by civil society.
In response to this, in 2022, the CEDAW Committee put out some robust and intersectional recommendations for LBTI people in Uganda. It asked for the state party to implement strategies that place LBTI people (amongst other constituencies) at the centre of COVID 19 recovery strategies, and ensure that in the context of restrictions on freedom of movement, public health measures and post-crisis recovery plans, these constituencies are able to exercise their rights. The Committee also noted women human rights defenders advocating for the rights of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and intersex persons are at particular risk, due to the ripple effects of the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014, although it was struck down by the Constitutional Court. Lastly, it asked Uganda to continue to implement the national policy guidelines on ending HIV stigma and other strategies, policies and programmes on HIV/AIDS, to address the high prevalence of HIV and AIDS amongst LBTI women and people, and ensure access to antiretroviral treatment free of charge.