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Winnie Byanyima: Why I Support Homosexuals

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Winnie Byanyima, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, has issued a strong condemnation of Uganda’s recently passed Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023, labeling it a “very bad law” that threatens to undermine the country’s efforts to eradicate HIV/AIDS by 2030. Byanyima, who is married to prominent opposition politician Dr. Kiiza Besigye, has been an outspoken critic of the legislation.

Last year, Byanyima urged President Yoweri Museveni not to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law, highlighting the potential adverse effects on public health and human rights. Despite her appeals, the bill was enacted, prompting widespread condemnation from human rights organizations and the international community.

https://x.com/Winnie_Byanyima/status/1800452834858852615

Byanyima argues that leaders fearful of losing their status and power are using the law to divert attention from Uganda’s economic and political challenges. “Leaders are whipping up hatred of minorities to distract from economic and political woes,” she stated. “They are pushing for draconian laws and enabling vigilantes to follow through on their verbal violence with physical violence.”

In addition to condemning the law, Byanyima expressed concern over the shrinking funding support for civil society organizations, which she believes is vital in the fight for human rights. “At a time when solidarity with human rights defenders is vital and urgent, funding support for civil society organizations is shrinking as donor countries cut their budgets,” she said.

Byanyima emphasized that the world is at a crucial juncture. “We are at a hinge moment, a crossroads: the end of AIDS as a public health threat is realizable in this decade, but progress is imperiled. We can win the battle for human rights for all, but only if we join together to fight for it,” she asserted. “Our collective future will be set by what we do now. Courage and urgency in support of everyone’s human rights is essential to protect everyone’s health.”

Byanyima highlighted the significant contributions of LGBTQ+ activists in the fight against HIV/AIDS. From the early days of the AIDS pandemic, these activists provided crucial peer-to-peer information and care. Groups like ACT UP in the United States and the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa have been instrumental in driving campaigns to make HIV treatment accessible to all.

While acknowledging the progress made in decriminalizing LGBTQ+ people in many countries, Byanyima warned that these gains are under threat. “LGBTQ+ people are under attack, and alongside the attacks on LGBTQ+ communities are attacks on the rights of women and girls, on migrants, and on ethnic and religious minorities,” she noted.

In her closing remarks, Byanyima called for solidarity and inclusivity, especially during PRIDE month. “The events of this year’s PRIDE month are showing the world the power of inclusivity. It is by only insisting on acceptance, and rejecting criminalization, discrimination, and stigmatization, that we can ensure a fairer, safer future for all,” she concluded.

Reflecting on the history of PRIDE, Byanyima reminded the world that PRIDE has always been about collective action for justice. “The determination of LGBTQ+ communities and allies to ensure inclusion for all people has been core to the advances that have been made in recent decades on human rights and in public health.”

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