Ugandan gay rights activists have expressed their dismay at the European Union’s decision not to cut funding to Uganda in response to the country’s stringent anti-LGBTQ law, which was enacted in May. European Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, defended the decision in a statement to the European Parliament, highlighting concerns that suspending financial aid would negatively impact vulnerable populations. Urpilainen also raised the possibility that other non-EU actors might step in to fill the funding gaps, potentially conflicting with EU values.
The European Union is a major donor to Uganda, supporting various sectors including infrastructure projects, healthcare initiatives, and food assistance. However, members of the Convening for Equality (CFE) coalition, representing LGBTQ rights activists, expressed their disappointment with the EU’s stance. They argued that the EU’s decision failed to guarantee that its funds would not inadvertently support violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
Clare Byarugaba, a leader within CFE, emphasized the missed opportunity for the EU to take more strategic action in protecting the fundamental principle of non-discrimination, a value the EU and its member states profess a deep commitment to. Frank Mugisha, another CFE leader, acknowledged the complexity of the situation but suggested that the EU could explore alternative approaches to its financial support. He stressed the importance of ensuring that EU assistance to Uganda is directed in a way that prevents those who promote hatred and catalyze violence and discrimination against LGBTQ individuals from benefiting from EU taxpayers’ money.
Uganda’s anti-LGBTQ law not only criminalizes same-sex acts but also prohibits the “promotion” of homosexuality. So far, at least five individuals have been charged under the law, including two facing the severe penalty of “aggravated homosexuality.” In response to the law, the United States imposed visa restrictions on certain Ugandan officials in June, and the World Bank suspended all new public loans to Uganda last month. The EU’s decision to maintain its aid to Uganda continues to draw criticism from LGBTQ advocates both within and outside the country.