Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni recently signed legislation that severely punishes homosexuality in his country. Indeed, the new law provides for potential life in jail for gay sex — a fact that the bill’s sponsor touted on his Facebook page after Museveni signed it into law, the Los Angeles Times reports.
This legal development has led to an international uproar. Now some countries — including the United States — are taking retaliatory action.
Some International Aid On Hold
The U.S. government has suspended certain aid to the Uganda Ministry of Health, according to Reuters. A senior U.S. government official informed Reuters that “a portion of the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s cooperative agreement with the Ministry of Health has been put on hold pending … review.”
It is not clear how much aid has been withheld, but the U.S. official reported that the Center for Disease Control spent $3.9 million on a Ministry of Health program last year.
Reuters reports that Uganda’s Ministry of Health has stated that it no longer will be able to access money from a fund from which to purchase HIV testing kits and antiretroviral drugs. Apparently, the freeze also will affect 50 Ministry workers.
Total U.S. assistance to Uganda was approximately $723 million in 2013, as reported by Reuters. And roughly half of people with HIV or AIDS in Uganda receive help by virtue of U.S. programs.
Reuters also reports that The World Bank and other countries, such as the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, so far have withheld loans totaling in excess of $118 million to Uganda based on recent developments.
More Harm Than Good?
But is withholding aid to Uganda an effective strategy for political or cultural change? One Ugandan civil-rights group that’s been fighting the anti-gay law is urging countries to think twice.
“We do not want the people of Uganda to suffer because of the unfortunate Political choices of our government,” the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law explains in its guidelines for international supporters. “However, we support Strategic Aid Cuts to specific sectors, such as the Dutch Government’s decision to withdraw funding from the Justice Sector.”
It is possible that the withholding of aid in response to the recent anti-homosexuality law could get the attention of Ugandan officials and the president of Uganda. But in the interim, the failure to provide aid appears to hurt innocent victims — those people suffering from HIV and AIDS in Uganda and the workers there who are trying to help them.
Eric Sinrod is of counsel in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod’s columns, please email him at email@example.com with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s law firm or its individual partners.