In response to the West’s criticism of the country’s new anti-LGBTQ law—one of the strictest in the world—Uganda claimed on Tuesday that donor threats of sanctions amounted to “blackmail.”
The president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, approved a law that makes “aggravated homosexuality”—a crime that involves having gay sex with an HIV-positive person—punishable by death.
Its implementation, which was announced on Monday, drew immediate ire from Western nations and puts a portion of the nation’s annual billion-dollar inflow of foreign aid in jeopardy.
While Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that the government would consider imposing visa restrictions on Ugandan officials, U.S. President Joe Biden threatened aid reductions and other consequences.
The law, according to Josep Borrell, the head of foreign strategy for the EU, will affect Uganda’s relations with other countries. Information Minister Chris Baryomunsi dismissed the criticism in the first in-depth remarks from the Ugandan government following Museveni’s signing of the law.
“We do not consider homosexuality as a constitutional right. It is just a sexual deviation which we do not promote as Ugandans and Africans,” he told Reuters.
“While we appreciate the support we get from partners, they must be reminded that we are a sovereign country and we do not legislate for the Western world. We legislate for our own people here in Uganda. So that kind of blackmail is not acceptable.”
Ugandan activists and lawyers filed a lawsuit on Monday against the law. They said it encourages discrimination and stigmatization and allege it was passed without meaningful public participation.
In an interview, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk told Reuters he expects the courts to agree.
“I hope that the judiciary is going to look into it and I can tell you, if they look at human rights law, their own constitution, they will find it in violation of it,” Turk said, describing the law as “devastating”.
He made no further mention of the specific constitutional provision that had been broken. A spokeswoman then added: “a whole range,” when asked about alleged transgressions of international law, citing the rights to equality, non-discrimination, and life as examples.
The CEO of France’s TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA), which is building a $3.5 billion oil pipeline between Tanzania and Uganda, notified Museveni about the company’s opinions on the law before he signed it, according to Reuters on Tuesday.
“Respect for others is a core value at TotalEnergies,” a spokesperson said.