International Policies, U.S. Foreign Assistance

It’s Complicated Anti-LGBT Laws Leave No Easy Answers

Recently at PAI, we were presented with the opportunity to partner with a local African civil society organization (CSO) to advance women’s access to reproductive and maternal health. Usually when we get a proposal like this, our questions are pretty standard: Does the organization have a strong infrastructure? A proven track record of advocacy and policy change? A commitment to reproductive health and rights? If the answers are “yes,” it’s an easy decision to proceed with a partnership. But this time, we paused.

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The reason? This particular proposal came from Uganda. It was the first partnership request we’d received since President Yoweri Museveni signed the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) into law and the Ugandan Parliament passed the HIV Prevention and Control Act (HPCA).

Faced with the prospect of partnering with a Ugandan CSO, we now find ourselves in new territory. We know the organization supports reproductive rights, but does that support embrace the full range of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), including the non-discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons and other disenfranchised minorities? Does the organization support the enactment of these new laws? If yes, how do we reconcile the potential impact we could have on improving one set of rights (reproductive) with the organization’s complete disavowal of another set of rights?

The questions we’re wrestling with are certainly not unique. Like most in the international development and SRHR communities, we are deeply troubled by these new Ugandan laws, as well as Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act signed into law earlier this year. These laws not only contain blatant human rights violations, but their enactment also threatens to roll back so many of the gains against the HIV/AIDS epidemic we have made in the last decade. Read more in the full version of 2020 Vision.

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