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Human Rights Watch, Sexual Minorities Uganda Condemn Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

October 15th, 2009

Human Rights Watch join sixteen other local and international human rights organizations in condemning the Anti-Homosexuality Act which has been introduced in Uganda’s Parliament. According to the HRW statement:

“This draft bill is clearly an attempt to divide and weaken civil society by striking at one of its most marginalized groups” said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “The government may be starting here, but who will be next?”

The bill would criminalize the legitimate work of national and international activists and organizations working for the defense and promotion of human rights in Uganda. It would also put major barriers in the path of effective HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, the groups said.

“Discrimination and punitive laws like this aimed at marginalized groups and at those often among the most affected by HIV drives people underground and does nothing to help slow down the AIDS epidemic,” said Daniel Molokele, Africa program officer at the World AIDS Campaign.

Under Uganda’s existing laws, the police arbitrarily arrest and detain men and women accused of engaging in consensual sex with someone of the same sex. Human rights organizations have documented cases of torture or other ill-treatment against lesbians and gay men in detention because of their sexual orientation.

Sexual Minorities Uganda has also circulated a statement condemning the bill. Their statement, which is not yet available on their web site, is reproduced in full below. It contains disturbing news of LGBT Ugandans who had died as a result of the latest anti-homosexuality campaigns sparked by a three-day anti-gay conference last March.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

15th October, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE PRESS RELEASE:

Sexual Minorities Uganda Condemn the tabled anti-homosexuality bill

As a network of human rights activists, working in the areas of sexual rights as well as other human rights issues, we write to urge you to oppose a repressive bill which  was tabled in Parliament of Uganda on 14th October 2009. This bill is a blow to the steady progress of democracy in Uganda. It proposes criminalization of advocacy and support for the rights of homosexual Ugandans.  It also prohibits any public discussion or expression of gay and lesbian lives and any organizing around sexual orientation.  In doing so, it violates the basic rights to freedom of expression, conscience, association, and assembly, as well as internationally recognized protections against discrimination.  The proposed bill intention is to divide and discriminate against the Ugandan homosexual population, and exclude them from participation in public life, which goes against the inclusive spirit necessary for our economic as well as political development. Its spirit is profoundly undemocratic and un-African.

Over the recent months increased campaigns of violence have gone uncontrolled. The violence directed at Homosexual Ugandans has resulted in the unwarranted arrests of many people; there are eight ongoing cases in various courts all over Uganda of which four accused persons are unable to meet the harsh bail conditions set against them.  These acts of violence have now resulted in the deaths of several homosexual people, such as Brian Pande at Mbale Hospital as he awaited trial. This bill aggravates stigma and hatred; and renders all promised protections enshrined in the constitution for all Ugandan citizens void.

Religious leaders and policy makers have also exhibited very hostile attitudes towards otherwise peace keeping homosexual Ugandans by publicizing slanderous and hateful messages in the media, creating serious security concerns for the lives of SMUG network members. Uganda has repeatedly pledged to defend these fundamental freedoms in the Constitution; it has also signed treaties binding it to respect international human rights law and standards, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.  As part of the community of nations forming sexual minorities we urge Ugandan parliamentarians and government to continue to respect these principles and reject this bill, which establishes a new and totally undemocratic level of policing private life. SMUG condemns both of these positions as undemocratic and unacceptable.

These positions will further set a dangerous precedent and send a signal that any Ugandan’s privacy is unguaranteed -that all of our civil society could be put under attack.    If this bill is passed into law, it will clearly endanger the work of all human rights defenders and members of civil society in Uganda.

This proposed legislation violates Uganda’s most basic obligations to the rights, and well-being, of its people. By signing international treaties and entering the international community, the Ugandan government has undertaken the obligation to promote and protect the human rights of its population, without discrimination on any grounds. As the Sexual Minorities in Uganda, we urge you to act on that obligation, and to further the growth of our democracy.  Kindly vote against this bill.

ISSUED BY
Sexual Minorities Uganda – SMUG
Sexual Minorities Uganda – SMUG is a network of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people’s organizations based in Uganda.

For further details, contact:
Frank Mugisha
Sexual Minorities Uganda – SMUG
Email:fmugisha@sexualminoritiesuganda.org
Tel: +256772616062

David Kato
Sexual Minorities Uganda – SMUG
Email: advocacy@sexualminoritiesuganda.org
Tel: +256773104971

Valentine Kalende
Freedom and Roam Uganda – FARUG
Email: vkalende@farug.org
Tel: +256752324249

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

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