EU inaction over Uganda LGBTQ law slammed by activists

Gay rights activists expressed criticism on Friday over the European Union’s announcement this week that it would not reduce funding to Uganda despite the enactment of a stringent anti-LGBTQ law in May.

In a written statement to the European Parliament issued on Wednesday, European Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen justified not suspending financial aid to Uganda over the law, which prescribes the death penalty for certain same-sex acts, by emphasizing that such a move would deprive vulnerable populations of vital support.

“Disengagement by the EU would also create gaps which may be further filled by other players who do not share EU values,” she added.

The EU is one of Uganda’s largest donors, financing infrastructure projects, healthcare programs, and providing food assistance.

Rights activists from the Convening for Equality (CFE) coalition stated in a press release that the EU’s stance did not guarantee that its funding would not inadvertently contribute to violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

“The recent EU announcement misses a critical opportunity to take more strategic action to protect the fundamental principle of non-discrimination – something the EU and EU member states profess a deep commitment to,” said Clare Byarugaba, one of CFE’s leaders.

Another CFE leader, Frank Mugisha, expressed that he didn’t necessarily oppose European engagement with Uganda but believed that the EU had alternatives for reorienting its financial assistance.

“An effective response is one that fine-tunes and reallocates EU assistance to Uganda in ways that ensure that those who spout hatred and catalyze violence and discrimination against LGBTIQ people – including Ugandan government officials – won’t benefit from EU taxpayers’ money,” Mugisha said.

The Ugandan law also prohibits the “promotion” of homosexuality. To date, at least five individuals have been charged under this law, including two facing the more severe charge of “aggravated homosexuality.”

Following the law’s implementation, the United States implemented visa restrictions on certain Ugandan officials in June, and the World Bank ceased providing new public loans to Uganda last month.

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