Illegal or immoral? Reactions to Uganda’s harsh anti-gay law as the US threatens sanctions

The law is now limited to gay sexual acts, and people convicted under this clause face life imprisonment.

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality law was signed into law on May 29, 2023 by President Yoweri Museveni. It is one of the toughest anti-LGBTQ laws in the world, and it has drawn widespread condemnation from Western countries and activists.

United States President Joe Biden has threatened to withdraw USD 1 billion worth of aid and investment to Uganda following the signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act into law by the President Yoweri Museveni.

In a statement, the US President said that his country is considering a response which will include application of sanctions and restriction of entry into the United States against anyone involved in serious human rights abuses or corruption.

“The enactment of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act is a tragic violation of universal human rights—one that is not worthy of the Ugandan people and one that jeopardizes the prospects of critical economic growth for the entire country,” the US President said in the statement.

Church reaction

Church leaders in Uganda and Kenya have also reacted to the stringent law.

The Catholic Church in Uganda has condemned homosexuality as a sin and said that those involved need mental health assistance. The Archbishop of the Kampala Archdiocese, Paul Ssemogerere, said that homosexuality should be seen as any other sin and not a crime unless another law is broken, like enticing minors into the vice.

“There are many sins that we commit every day that don’t take us to prison,” the Archbishop said.

Rev. Charles Opiyo of the Cyrus Community thinks that we are missing the point by giving undue attention to homosexuality.

“The US is wrong by allowing it, and Uganda is wrong by criminalizing it. You cannot legislate homosexuality because it’s a moral and spiritual issue,” he says. “It’s not a greater or less sin than the others. As Kingdom believers, we are called to reach out to the lost, not to condemn them.”

Rev. Charles believes that Christians need to focus on protecting marriages rather than fighting gays. He says that people need to see the alternative, which is God’s desire for strong families, rather than focusing on the LGBTQ debate, which only entrenches the argument of those who promote the lifestyle.

“As Christians, we need to be categorical and clear about our stand that this is sin and we cannot entertain it,” says Rev. Tom Otieno of ACK Church Madaraka.

He thinks Uganda is doing what it has to do to protect the social and cultural values of its people and shouldn’t trade its values for financial benefit.

“As long as people keep pushing the agenda in the face of a society that has decided to live a certain way, that society has a right to fight back,” he adds.

On their participation in church, he says, “Homosexuals are welcome to church, to occupy the pews, and to seek ministry because they need help. They need to repent and forsake the lifestyle just like any other sinner. Church is where they can be helped.”

Rev. Tom clarifies that they cannot serve at the altar and pulpit until they repent and produce fruit in keeping with their repentance.

Amendments to the law

The anti-gay law was passed by legislators in March but was returned to parliament for amendment to only punish same-sex actions.

On May 2, amendments were made to the first draft, which criminalized those merely identifying with LGBTQ and wanted people to report homosexual activities.

The law is now limited to gay sexual acts, and people convicted under this clause face life imprisonment.

The controversial law also prescribes the death penalty for aggravated offenses, including sexual abuse against a minor, a disabled person, or a victim of abuse who is infected with a life-long illness.

The public will also be required to alert the authorities on any form of homosexual abuse against children or other vulnerable people.


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