3 minute read

Introduction: The autocratic leader of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, has introduced the death penalty for homosexual acts. Uganda is one of the youngest and fastest-growing countries in the world. Nearly half of its 45 million-strong population in 2020 were under 14. Roughly 75% were under 30. Museveni, aged 78, stands apart from the emerging Ugandan generations. Ascending to power through a violent coup in 1986, he has maintained his grip on leadership ever since. Although he purportedly endorsed the establishment of multi-party democracy in 2005, his authoritative rule over the nation remains unyielding. The prevalence of corruption and intimidation against political adversaries has become deeply ingrained.

The overwhelming support of 387 out of 389 Members of Parliament for the Anti-Homosexuality Act highlights the alarming prevalence of homophobia within Uganda’s political elite. However, the predictable defense by Museveni’s associates, claiming that the stern criticism from figures such as US President Joe Biden, the UK, and others stem from a bullying colonial mentality aimed at undermining “African family values,” is both laughable and deplorable. European Parliament President Roberta Metsola condemned Uganda’s adoption of an anti-LGBTQ+ law that includes the death penalty for “serial offenders” and “aggravated homosexuality.”

“LGBTQI+ people in Uganda increasingly fear for their safety and security, and people are being discouraged from seeking vital health services for fear of attack, punishment, and further marginalization,” the Aids organizations said in a joint statement. 

Uganda’s restrictive laws and societal attitudes towards the LGBT+ community have created significant challenges for LGBT+ individuals, particularly students. Discrimination, violence, and stigmatization often impede their educational opportunities and well-being. Furthermore, successive elections have been tarnished by allegations of vote manipulation and fraud, as acknowledged by the United Kingdom, European Union, and the United States. In this context, the European Union (EU) can be crucial in supporting LGBT+ students in Uganda, promoting human rights, and fostering a culture of acceptance and equality. By employing diplomatic measures, supporting civil society organizations, and providing educational opportunities, the EU can help empower LGBT+ students and promote a more inclusive and tolerant society.

  1. Diplomatic Pressure: The EU can exert diplomatic pressure on the Ugandan government to repeal or amend its discriminatory laws. By engaging in dialogue with Ugandan authorities, the EU can raise concerns about the human rights violations faced by LGBT+ individuals and advocate for legal reforms that protect their rights. The EU’s diplomatic influence and economic ties can leverage Ugandan leaders to reevaluate their stance on LGBT+ issues. The EU and the US should introduce visa restrictions against Ugandan officials and others for abusing human rights following the implementation of one of the world’s toughest anti-gay laws.
  2. Support for Civil Society Organizations: The EU can provide financial and technical assistance to local civil society organizations in Uganda that work tirelessly to protect and advance LGBT+ rights. These organizations play a vital role in providing support services, advocating for legal reforms, and promoting societal acceptance. The EU’s funding and collaboration can strengthen the capacity of these organizations, enabling them to amplify their efforts and reach more LGBT+ students in need.
  3. Educational Programs: The EU can facilitate educational programs that promote inclusivity and diversity in Ugandan schools and universities. This can be achieved through partnerships between European and Ugandan educational institutions, where expertise and best practices in promoting LGBT+ inclusion can be shared. The EU can also offer scholarships and study exchange programs to LGBT+ students from Uganda, allowing them to pursue education in more accepting environments. Such initiatives would provide opportunities for personal growth, academic development, and networking, empowering LGBT+ students to become agents of change in their communities.
  4. Awareness Campaigns and Safe Spaces: The EU can support public awareness campaigns that challenge stereotypes and promote understanding and acceptance of the LGBT+ community in Ugandan society. These campaigns can be conducted through various mediums, such as media outlets, social media platforms, and community events. Furthermore, establishing safe spaces, including LGBT+ community centers or counseling services, can provide vital support and resources for LGBT+ students, fostering a sense of belonging and well-being.
  5. Advocacy for LGBT+ Rights: The EU can use its platform and international influence to raise awareness about the challenges faced by LGBT+ students in Uganda. By actively condemning discrimination and violence against LGBT+ individuals, the EU can draw attention to human rights violations and encourage other nations and organizations to join the cause. Public statements, diplomatic initiatives, and engagement with international forums can help generate momentum for change and enhance the visibility of LGBT+ rights issues in Uganda.
  6. Accelerated, prioritised, and fast-track asylum procedures. LGBT+ Students from Uganda should be able to apply for fast-track asylum procedures. 

Conclusion: Uganda’s anti-gay laws and discriminatory societal attitudes pose significant challenges to LGBT+ students. The European Union, through diplomatic pressure, support for civil society organizations, educational programs, awareness campaigns, and advocacy efforts, can play a pivotal role in promoting equality and empowerment for LGBT+ students in Uganda. Addressing these challenges and promoting human rights, the EU can create a more inclusive and tolerant society, fostering a brighter future for LGBT+ individuals in Uganda. In the end, I can’t agree more with the Observer Editorial of the Guardian, which wrote, ”In the name of human decency, if for no other reason, Uganda must scrap this obscene piece of legalised bigotry.