The White House sharply criticized Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Monday for signing legislation that imposes harsh penalties for homosexuality, calling it a step backward.
The new law strengthened existing punishments for anyone caught having gay sex, imposing jail terms of up to life for “aggravated homosexuality,” including sex with a minor or while HIV positive.
“Instead of standing on the side of freedom, justice, and equal rights for its people, today, regrettably, Ugandan President Museveni took Uganda a step backward by signing into law legislation criminalizing homosexuality,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.
His statement did not say whether U.S. assistance to Uganda would be suspended. An official said last week aid would be reviewed if Museveni signed the law. Washington is one of Uganda's largest foreign donors, with assistance of more than $400 million annually in recent years.
Carney said the law was an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda and reflects poorly on the country's commitment to protect the human rights of the Ugandan people.
“We will continue to urge the Ugandan government to repeal this abhorrent law and to advocate for the protection of the universal human rights of LGBT persons in Uganda and around the world,” he said.
A State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States is reviewing its relationship with Uganda as a consequence of the new law.
"Now that this law has been enacted, we are beginning an internal review of our relationship with the government of Uganda to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programs, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values," said Psaki.
Homosexuality is illegal in 37 African nations and a taboo subject across many parts of the continent. Activists say few Africans are able to be openly gay.