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Church of Uganda ‘grateful’ as harsh new anti-homosexuality law is approved

30 May 2023

Church of Uganda

The Archbishop of Uganda, Dr Stephen Kaziimba, speaking in 2021

The Archbishop of Uganda, Dr Stephen Kaziimba, speaking in 2021

THE Archbishop of Uganda, Dr Stephen Kaziimba, has expressed his Church’s gratitude for a hardline anti-homosexuality law in the country, approved this week. International organisations and political figures describe themselves as “appalled” by the new law.

Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda, but the new law introduces new offences, such as the “promotion” of homosexuality, and harsher punishments, including the death penalty for “aggravated” offences.

When the parliament in Uganda approved the law in March by an overwhelming majority, the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote to the president, Yoweri Museveni, whose approval was needed for the new law to be ratified (News, 29 March).

On Monday, Mr Museveni approved the law. In its response, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office issued a statement saying that the UK Government was “appalled” by the “deeply discriminatory” new law.

“This legislation undermines the protections and freedoms of all Ugandans enshrined in the Ugandan Constitution. It will increase the risk of violence, discrimination and persecution, will set back the fight against HIV/AIDS, and will damage Uganda’s international reputation,” the statement said.

Dr Kaziimba’s comments come in a statement released by the Church of Uganda communications office, headed: “Church of Uganda grateful for Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023”, and beginning: “The Church of Uganda welcomes the diligent work of Parliament and His Excellency, the President, in crafting the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023.”

Dr Kaziimba praises Ugandan lawmakers for “crafting” the new law, which he said offered “greater protection of children through strong anti-grooming measures, strong restrictions on promotion, and protection of children by not allowing those convicted under the act to be employed in organizations that work directly with children.”

He reiterates his belief, expressed previously in his Easter message, that homosexuality is “currently a challenge in Uganda because it is being forced on us by outside, foreign actors against our will, against our culture, and against our religious beliefs.

“They disguise themselves as ‘human rights activists,’ but are corrupting real human rights by adding LGBTQ to their agenda.” And he adds: “There is no moral equivalence between LGBTQ relationships (which cannot procreate) and lifelong, heterosexual, monogamous marriage.”

He appears to blame homosexuality for the decline of many developed countries. “Those countries that legalized homosexuality a long time ago have seen a long-time decline in their population growth. In fact, many of those countries are now faced with the problem of negative population growth. Negative population growth leads to the collapse of countries, cultures, civilizations, and economies.”

The Ugandan Primate does, however, deviate from his government’s official line by opposing the imposition of the death penalty. “As grievous as aggravated defilement and aggravated homosexuality are, we do not support the death penalty for those crimes, and continue to recommend life imprisonment instead.” And he welcomes the clause in the Act that protects people from false accusations.

He ends his statement with general remarks about sexual temptation. “We must recognise we also have major challenges in our families and communities with heterosexual immorality. . . Many of the people loudly protesting against homosexuality are quietly fornicating or betraying their spouse through gender-based violence, adultery, or defiling their own children.”

The Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd Andrew John, posted on Twitter on Monday: “I intend to write, again, to the Anglican Archbishop of Uganda about this. I hope he will respond this time.” He has previously described the law as “profoundly disturbing and utterly UnChristlike”.

The US President, Joe Biden, described the legislation as a “violation”, and suggested that Uganda would risk losing aid and trade deals if it was not repealed.

On Monday, the office of the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights described the new law as “draconian and discriminatory”.

“It is a recipe for systematic violations of the rights of LGBT people & the wider population. It conflicts with the Constitution and international treaties and requires urgent judicial review.”

In a joint statement, three international health NGOs said that “Uganda’s progress on its HIV response is now in grave jeopardy”.

The statement, issued by the Global Fund, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, said that “trust, confidentiality, and stigma-free engagement are essential for anyone seeking health care.

“LGBTQI+ people in Uganda increasingly fear for their safety and security, and increasing numbers of people are being discouraged from seeking vital health services for fear of attack, punishment and further marginalization.”

Under the new law, the death penalty can be imposed in cases where gay sex leads to the transmission of HIV, with no distinction between intentional and unintentional infection.

Dr Kaziimba was approached for comment.

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