On May 29, 2023, a significant setback occurred for the transgender and gender diverse community in Uganda when President Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 into law. The Act, which had been initially passed by parliament on March 21, 2023, was subsequently returned to the house by President Museveni. Despite his initial request for reconsideration, the revised version of the legislation, passed by Parliament on May 2, 2023, retained numerous oppressive provisions, including severe punishments such as life imprisonment or even death. This Act criminalizes any sexual acts between adults of the same biological sex, posing a significant risk to transgender and gender-diverse individuals in Uganda, many of whom have only undergone social transition and are particularly vulnerable to hate crimes, violence, and harassment.
The law also criminalizes advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights, thereby posing a threat to organizations engaged in trans human rights advocacy or health assistance programs. As TYI-Uganda, we are deeply concerned about the devastating impact that this Act has already had on trans and gender diverse people. The majority of those who have socially transitioned or are on hormonal replacement therapy are currently living in fear and hiding, with some even facing eviction from their homes.
There have been documented cases of arrests targeting trans women, collective rape of trans men, job losses (especially among trans women involved in sex work), and mob justice against trans people whose gender expression aligns with stereotypes associated with homosexuality. The anti-LGBTIQ rhetoric surrounding this legislation has also contributed to increased rates of depression, anxiety, and stress, significantly affecting the mental health and wellbeing of transgender and gender diverse individuals.
As the face of the LGBTQ+ movement in Uganda, transgender and gender diverse people are vulnerable to violence because the majority of Ugandans lack an understanding of gender identity. This legislation poses a significant threat to our existence and violates our constitutional liberties.
The Act not only further entrenches discrimination and violence against the transgender and gender diverse community but also impedes access to crucial services such as healthcare, housing, education, participation in sports activities, employment, and freedom of association. Numerous organizations that had been providing essential support, including healthcare, mental health services, and legal assistance to trans and gender diverse individuals, have already been forced to close due to the dire situation. The assent of this Act has only exacerbated the already precarious human rights situation of the transgender and gender diverse communities across the country.
As a community, transgender and gender diverse people in Uganda assert our right to equality and freedom from discrimination, as well as our right to privacy, dignity, and respect. The proposed legislation will not silence our voices, and we will continue to fight for our rights and visibility.
At TYI-Uganda, our commitment to justice and equality remains steadfast, even in the face of adversity. This proposed legislation will not silence us; we will continue to be resolute in our determination to tirelessly advocate for the rights and well-being of the transgender and gender diverse community in Uganda. Our goal to promote inclusivity, acceptance, and respect drives us forward, despite the challenges we may encounter. We firmly believe that every individual deserves to live a life free from discrimination, fear, and prejudice.
We stand in solidarity with all transgender and gender diverse people in Uganda and around the world. Together, we will continue to work diligently to raise awareness, provide support, and fight for the rights of transgender and gender diverse individuals in Uganda.
We call on partners and allies to acknowledge and support the unique challenges transgender individuals and communities confront.
We invite all allies and partners to join us in this crucial fight. We require your participation in our struggle for equality and justice. Together, we can create a more inclusive, tolerant, and accepting Uganda, where everyone is free to express themselves without fear of discrimination or violence.