Metro Weekly

U.S. Warns Americans About Travel to Uganda

The U.S. State Department has issued an advisory warning for travelers, citing, in part, the country’s strict anti-LGBTQ law.

Ugandan flag – Photo: Nicolas Raymond, via Flickr.

The U.S. State Department has issued an advisory warning Americans about traveling to Uganda following the passage of a sweeping anti-LGBTQ law. 

The State Department is advising Americans to reconsider traveling to the East African country due to crime, terrorism threats, and the country’s recently passed Anti-Homosexuality Act

“The May 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Act raises the risk that LGBTQI+ persons, and those perceived to be LGBTQI+, could be prosecuted and subjected to life imprisonment or death based on provisions in the law, and may be subject to mandatory reporting to the police if they are suspected of committing or intending to commit acts in violation of the law, and could face harassment or attacks by vigilantes,” the advisory reads.

“Supporters of the dignity and human rights of LGBTQI+ persons (including those of youth under the age of 18) could be prosecuted and imprisoned for multi-year sentences,” the advisory warns.

For those who must travel for business or insist on traveling to the country despite the advisory, the State Department has issued guidelines for how to behave while abroad. That includes not leaving food or drinks unattended in public, especially in local clubs; remaining in groups; keeping a low profile; being aware of one’s surroundings; avoiding displaying signs of wealth and being vigilant when using ATMs; and carrying a copy of one’s passport and visa while securing the originals in a hotel safe. 

With respect to the Anti-Homosexuality Act specifically, the State Department warns that any public identification or symbol of identification with the LGBTQI+ community, could be grounds for prosecution. It also warns that even private same-sex relations between consenting adults are illegal and prosecutable under law.

The Anti-Homosexuality Act, signed into law last month by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, builds upon an existing colonial-era law outlawing same-sex intimacy, but includes enhanced penalties for engaging in same-sex conduct or coercing others to violate the law. The law also sets a penalty of 20 years in jail for anyone found guilty of “promoting” homosexuality or expressing support for LGBTQ rights more broadly.

As a result of the law, the Ugandan government has come under international condemnation from the European Union, the United Nations, and a coalition of international corporations. It also risks potentially losing financial aid from the U.S. government as a result of the law.

The Uganda advisory also warns travelers to be aware of terrorist attacks and violent crime, including armed robbery, home invasion, and sexual assault, noting, in the case of crime, that local police may not have the resources to appropriately respond to certain violent incidents. 

In the case of terrorism, the State Department advisory notes that terrorist attacks took place in western Uganda last year, and that there were multiple bombing attacks near Kampala in 2021. Like several other countries on the state department’s “Level 2” advisory list — including Western nations like France, Spain, and Italy — the advisory notes that while terrorist attacks do not appear to be targeted at foreign nationals, anyone can be a victim, particularly at large public gatherings that may be more vulnerable to attack.

According to Travel Market Report, the Uganda advisory follows the department’s re-issuance of travel advisories to four other Level 2 countries, in which travelers are advised to “exercise increased caution”: Bolivia, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, and Denmark.

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