Civil society groups in Uganda have completed their pretrial appeal against the Anti-Homosexuality Act, prior to a full hearing later in the month.

Petitioners have argued that the law violates fundamental rights guaranteed under the Ugandan constitution and international human rights law, including those stipulated in the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, as reported by Human Rights Watch.

On 2 May, Uganda’s Parliament passed anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation titled the Anti-Homosexuality Bill – legislation that is considered one of the most brutal in the world.

An earlier version of the legislation from March of this year criminalised identifying as LGBTQIA+. However, the legislation in its current form includes a distinction between engaging in homosexual acts and self-identifying.

People will no longer be criminalised for identifying as LGBTQIA+ under the bill, yet it remains possible to receive a jail term of up to 20 years for advocating or promoting rights of the community.

Arguably the most extreme aspect of the law is that it retains the death penalty for those deemed “serial offenders” or those found to be taking part in same-sex relations with minors, as well as other categories of vulnerable people under the offence of “aggravated homosexuality”.

“The Anti Homosexuality Act of 2023 has significantly impacted the lives of LGBTQIA+ individuals in numerous ways, creating a multitude of challenges,” said Henry Mukiibi, Executive Director & Founder of Children of the Sun Foundation (COSF), a population-led organisation that advocates for health and economic empowerment services for marginalised communities in Uganda.

“Firstly, there is a notable disruption in access to comprehensive sexual reproductive health rights and services due to the closure of access points, flagged either for the alleged promotion of homosexuality or closed out of fear of persecution,” Mukiibi told GAY TIMES.

Mukiibi further explains that the legislation has had a dire impact on certain key facilities, such as sexual health drop-in centres: “This has led to an alarming increase in the spread of sexually transmitted infections and new cases of HIV within the LGBTQIA+ community. Furthermore, these infections have developed into chronic conditions, and tragically, some individuals have lost their lives as a result.”

A secondary problem highlighted is a “rise in homelessness” perpetuated by fear of legal ramifications and forced outing.

Mukiibi continued: “The Act has also caused the disintegration of many families, with instances of evictions from homes and villages targeting the younger LGBTQIA+ community. Parents and caregivers, driven by the fear of legal repercussions, have increasingly evicted LGBTQIA+ members aged 18-24 from their homes.

“This trend is exacerbated by forced coming out and the exposure of their sexual orientation, contributing to a rise in homelessness within the LGBTQIA+ community.”

Living under the legislation has also had a profound “impact on mental health,” as X’s has witnessed.

“On a broader scale, the law has had a profound impact on the mental health of LGBTQIA+ individuals in Uganda. The constant fear of arrest, mob violence, raids, job loss, expulsion from home, and blackmail has created a pervasive sense of anxiety, trauma, and even suicidal tendencies,” X tells GAY TIMES.

“Many LGBTQIA+ individuals find themselves living in constant fear, akin to a ticking bomb set to explode at any moment. Consequently, this environment has prompted some to seek refuge outside the country in an attempt to preserve their lives.”