While the United States has been dealing with its own issues surrounding LGBT rights, across the Atlantic, Uganda and Nigeria have handled this issue significantly more poorly. On Monday, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a law which had passed Parliament in December that strengthens the penalties LGBT people face simply for living in Uganda. Museveni had previously stated that he would not sign the law, but he clearly had a change of heart. Earlier this month, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan also signed a bill which further increased penalties in his own country. Gay sex was illegal there already, but now there is a mandated fourteen year sentence for anyone involved in a same-sex relationship, and even those who merely support LGBT people in Nigeria may face up to ten years in prison.
Unfortunately, both laws have met with little resistance nationally. In Nigeria, many people whip, stone, or otherwise attack LGBT people. Many villages have been attempting to “cleanse” their people by leaking names to authorities and accusing those who have aroused suspicions. In Uganda, there has been a similar response. International organizations, on the other hand, have been outspoken about their condemnation of the law. The UN has issued statements criticizing Uganda’s new law, and recently, the World Bank froze a $90 million loan to the country, and Secretary of State John Kerry has stated that the United States, Uganda’s largest aid provider, will reconsider its relationship with the country in light of this new legislation.
Uganda and Nigeria are not the only countries to have such extreme forms of institutional discrimination. Homosexuality is illegal in thirty-eight out of fifty-four countries in Africa, and Mauritania actually has the death penalty as an option. Uganda’s new law is a bleak reminder that while progress is being made in many countries, including the U.S., the situation is far from good for LGBT people elsewhere around the world.