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Take Action: Tell Uganda To Respect Human Rights And Dismiss the Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

October 19th, 2009

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has issued an Action Alert, asking everyone to write to the Ugandan authorities to express your concern about their latest attempts to criminalize homosexuality and institute the death sentence in certain circumstances.

According to the text of the bill introduced in the Ugandan Parliament last week, the new law would:

  • Reaffirm the lifetime sentence currently provided upon conviction of homosexuality, and extends the definition from sexual activity to merely “touch[ing] another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.”
  • Create a new category of “aggravated homosexuality” which provides for the death penalty for “repeat offenders” and for cases where the individual is HIV-positive.
  • Criminalizes all speech and peaceful assembly for those who advocate on behalf of LGBT citizens in Uganda with fines and imprisonment of between five and seven years.
  • Criminalizes the act of obtaining a same-sex marriage abroad with lifetime imprisonment.
  • Adds a clause which forces friends or family members to report LGBT persons to police within 24-hours of learning about that individual’s homosexuality or face fines or imprisonment of up to three years.
  • Adds an extra-territorial and extradition provisions, allowing Uganda to prosecute LGBT Ugandans living abroad.

According to the IGLHRC, the bill’s impacts are wide-ranging:

The bill effectively bans any kind of community or political organizing around non-heteronormative sexuality. It will lend itself to misapplication and abuse, and implicitly encourages persecution of LGBT people by private actors. HIV prevention activities in Uganda, which rely on an ability to talk frankly about sexuality and provide condoms and other safer-sex materials, will be seriously compromised. Women, sex workers, people living with AIDS, and other marginalized groups may also find their activities tracked and criminalized through this bill.

The IGLHRC provides contact information (email and phone numbers, where available) and a sample letter. You can also send a letter to Exodus, the International Healing Foundation, and Abiding Truth Ministries, as well as  and demand that they speak out on the latest outrage which stems from their representatives’ participation in a three-day anti-gay conference in Kampala. The currently proposed anti-homosexuality bill is a direct result of that conference put on by Exodus International board member Don Schmierer, Abiding Truth Ministry’s Scott Lively, and International Healing Foundation’s Caleb Lee Brundidge. For more information on the role their activists played in this latest outrage, please see the links to our coverage at the end of this post.

Please send your letter to:

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
State House Nakasero
email: info@statehouse.go.ug

Prime Minister Apollo Nsibambi
email: ps@opm.go.ug

Speaker of the Parliament
Edward Ssekandi Kiwanuka
email: speaker@parliament.go.ug

Minister of Gender, Labour, and Social Affairs
Honorable Opio Gabriel
email: ps@mglsd.go.ug

Chair of the Uganda Human Rights Commission
Med Kaggwa
email: uhrc@uhrc.ug

Directorate for Ethics and Integrity
email: info@dei.go.ug

Chair of the Uganda Diplomatic Human Rights Working Groups
Mathisen Gørild
email: gorild.mathisen@mfa.no

Please also send a copy to:
Ambassador to the Republic of Uganda Embassy of the United States of America
Jerry P. Lanier
email: kampalawebcontact@state.gov

IGLHRC
email: communications+action.alert@iglhrc.org

Send an email and fax to:
Ambassador to the US
Perezi K. Kamunanwire
Fax: 1-202-726-1727
email: pkamunanwire@ugandaembassyus.org

Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda
Permanent Representative of the Republic of Uganda to the United Nations
336 East 45 Street
New York, NY 10017
Tel: 1-212-949-0110
Fax: 1-212-687-4517
email: ugandaunny@un.int

Sample Letter

Your Excellencies:

I am writing to express concern about legislation that would severely restrict the rights of Ugandan citizens, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and their defenders, in direct contravention of domestic and international law. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 would not only reaffirm penalties for homosexuality, but would criminalize the “promotion of homosexuality,” including funding and sponsoring LGBT organizations and broadcasting, publishing, or marketing materials on homosexuality. Any person in authority who fails to report known violations of the law within 24 hours will also be subject to a significant fine and up to 3 years in prison – even when this means turning in their colleagues, family, or friends.

The negative repercussions of the bill in Uganda will be immediate and severe. It effectively bans the free association and expression that are necessary for a flourishing civil society, and creates a climate of fear and hostility that undermines the citizenship and solidarity of all Ugandans. It will lend itself to misapplication and abuse, and implicitly encourages persecution of LGBT people by private actors. Effective HIV prevention activities in Uganda, which rely on an ability to talk frankly about sexuality and provide condoms and other safer-sex materials, will be difficult, if not impossible.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill violates National Objective 5(2) of the Ugandan Constitution, which provides that “the State shall guarantee and respect the independence of non-governmental organizations which protect and promote human rights.” Moreover, it directly violates the right to equality and freedom from discrimination (Article 21), the right to privacy (Article 27), the right to freedoms of speech, expression, association, and assembly (Article 29), the protection of minorities (Article 36), and the protection of civic rights and activities (Article 38) to which all Ugandans are entitled. It also violates the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and other international human rights treaties to which Uganda is a party. This bill undermines Uganda’s commitment to the international human rights regime and threatens the basic human rights of all its citizens.

The Bill’s revocation of fundamental rights would also seriously undermine the country’s reputation and credibility in the international arena. Because it claims jurisdiction over Ugandans who violate its provisions while outside of the country, the Bill will strain Uganda’s relations with regional and international partners.

While people may hold differing opinions about sexual orientation and gender identity, the legislation before Parliament is an ineffective and fundamentally illegal way to express opposition to a minority group. In recognition of the importance of a diverse, dynamic civil society and the domestic and international commitments that Uganda has made, I urge you to swiftly dismiss the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 and reaffirm the rights and responsibilities of all Ugandans.

Truly yours,
Name:
Organization:
Country:

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

Comments

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Debbie Thurman
October 19th, 2009 | LINK

I have seen BTB repeat the charge that Uganda’s proposed anti-gay bill and the recent spate of anti-gay activism there are “a direct result of that conference” (see above) i.e., the Kampala conference that Scott Lively, Don Schmierer and Caleb Lee Brundidge participated in back in March.

Could you please direct me to where you have evidence supporting that charge? It matters to me as I, too, have been digging up some background on this whole sordid mess.

Jim Burroway
October 19th, 2009 | LINK

Debbie,

The full chronology can be found in the links at the end of this post

Grant
October 19th, 2009 | LINK

I thank BTB for so prominently bringing this issue to the fore. According to USAID, the U.S. government (at least as of a report from August 2009) continues to support Uganda through various programs, especially in Northern Uganda and in HIV/AIDS reduction and education.

Do we have any leverage with our own Congress to withhold aid to Uganda, and should we even try that route, or will it only have the affect of hurting those we most want to help? Are there any other financial stressors we can place on Uganda without harming the very people who face the most danger with this draconian legislation (i.e., military or other financial aid not related to humanitarian causes)?

GreenEyedLilo
October 19th, 2009 | LINK

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. May this spread like fire.

Debbie Thurman
October 19th, 2009 | LINK

Jim, you have a gazillion reports on the conference flap. I have already read some of them. I’ll check the headlines. Does one or more of them actually connect the conference itself to what is now happening in Uganda? Or was this building up on its own anyway? I just want to make sure we are not making a false assumption.

grantdale
October 19th, 2009 | LINK

Debbie — there is no need to be so coy. Taken to extremes it becomes avoidance.

Yes — it was already building up. And yes that conference was PART of the build-up. Hand in glove.

The history shows exactly what Exodus went and got themselves involved in. They were warned in very clear terms ahead of that conference, and chose that path regardless. No assumption is required.

Read the letter sent to Exodus before the conference, if nothing else. Exodus’ behaviour — then and now — can only be described as wilful and culpable.

Lynn David
October 19th, 2009 | LINK

Here is what Randy Thomas quoted of Don Schmierer on the Exodus blog [a similar post there was deleted]:

From Randy Thomas on the Exodus Blog: I asked Don… about his thoughts on what is happening now in Uganda. He responded:

What this David Bahati is introducing does not reflect the Ugandans that I have ministered too. The only place where I have run into this thinking is from some former Russian hardliners and that was only a very small percentage of the participants attending my seminars. After some challenges from me (except for one person) they softened up and came around to a more redemptive position.

____________________________________

How does Schmierer’s statement compare with what one of his associates in Uganda, Stephen Langa of the Family Life Network, has been doing – after the conference Schmierer attended, for instance [http://www.monitor.co.ug/artman/publish/news/Homosexuality_threat_to_Ugandans_activists_83727.shtml]:

Activists against homosexuality in Uganda stormed parliament on Tuesday protesting against the practice and demanded a probe into the practice in the country. The activists who were holding banners denouncing the activity were led by the Family Life Network in conjunction with religious leaders.

The groups led by the Executive Director of Family Life Network, Mr Stephen Langa while handing over their petition to the Deputy Speaker, Ms Rebecca Kadaga said the Parliamentary select committee should also assess the extent of the damage homosexuality has caused to children and Ugandans.

…Mr Langa said the homosexuals under the group Sexual Minorities Uganda spend huge sums of money to recruit University students and those in secondary schools into homosexuality. They did not give details.

____________________________________

Another Uganda news outlet, UGPulse [http://www.ugpulse.com/articles/daily/news.asp?about=Civil%20society%20petitions%20Parliament%20over%20homosexuality%20vice&ID=9749], reported that Deputy Speaker Kadaga “promised to push for the amendment of Article 31 of the Constitution which prohibits homosexual marriages. Langa had earlier noted that the article prohibits gay marriages but not the actions.”The Daily Monitor’s article indicates that the group explained that they wanted the proposed amendment to be broadened to “openly prohibit homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexuality and other related practices.”
____________________________________

Then there was the time Langa sponsored a press conference in which another allegedly “former gay activist” Paul Kagaba accused a very popular Catholic priest and gospel singer, Fr. Anthony Musaala, of being gay.
____________________________________

The blogger GayUganda is has reported that Stephen Langa, the director of Family Life Network, spoke on Ugandan FM radio stations advocating the arrests of Ugandan LGBT leaders. [http://gayuganda.blogspot.com/2009/03/anti-gay-agenda.html]
____________________________________

Furthermore Dr Throckmorton has reported that the FLN – thus Langa – is directly behind the Ugandan bill [http://wthrockmorton.com/2009/10/19/dispatch-from-uganda-family-life-network-identified-as-backing-effort/comment-page-1/].
____________________________________

Now how is it that these actions by Langa are not supportive of Bahati’s bill on homosexuality? Schmierer certainly didn’t “soften up” Langa and get him to “come around.” All of these activities of Langa and the FLN happened in conjunction with or after the conference.

… … …

Debbie Thurman
October 20th, 2009 | LINK

“Read the letter sent to Exodus before the conference, if nothing else. Exodus’ behaviour — then and now — can only be described as wilful and culpable.”

Thanks, grantdale. For once, I am finding myself in agreement with you. I am certainly not being coy, and the record (read Throckmorton’s blog) will bear that out.

I saw a reference to a Feb. 27 letter to Exodus, but I cannot find a link to the letter itself. So that I do not have to wade through a mountain of long reports here, could someone please provide the link to the letter? Thanks.

grantdale
October 20th, 2009 | LINK

linked on Mar 11, above.

Also, typo in my original post: the open letter to Exodus was AFTER the conference. I’d had a sentence in about Alan Chambers being contacted well BEFORE the conference, but obviously also deleted the wrong tense when I gave that part the flick. The letter details the extended efforts made before the conference in any case — I think the Feb 27 reference may be to one of those efforts.

It is also worth noting something — for the record, and completely disproving Randy Thomas’ grossly offensive claim that “These same activists then don’t consistently speak out about other countries or cultures that have enormous human rights abuses (along these same lines or worse.)”

Search here at BTB, or at XGW, or at TWO… and you’ll find a long list of posts dating back years on that very subject; including the infamous trip by Exodus Global to Barbados in blatant support of the criminal laws.

Debbie Thurman
October 20th, 2009 | LINK

Thanks, grantdale. I did see the post-conference letter. So we don’t know, unless someone wants to report on that, the true substance of the pre-conference Exodus advisory you allude to. It is duly noted, however, that you say there was one.

Not sure just where all Randy wanted to go do with his comment about the lack of concern among gay activists about other countries’ human rights violations. Maybe he felt that was true of entities other than this one. He’ll have to clarify, if he wants to.

I am convinced there is enough smoke behind the scenes of the March conference for there to have been fire. It’s a shame.

Jim Burroway
October 20th, 2009 | LINK

Our pre-conference notification is discussed here.

Debbie Thurman
October 20th, 2009 | LINK

Thank you, Jim. Seems clear enough to me.

anteros
October 20th, 2009 | LINK

ANATOMY OF AFRICAN PATHOS

The African
Suffers poverty
Differently
From humans

The African
Suffers pain
Differently
From Humans.

The African
Sorrows, bereaves
Differently
From humans

The African
Suffers torture
Differently
From humans
Because the African pain
Is painless pain.

The African
Starves differently
From humans
Because it is African
To starve.

The African female
Endures rape
Quite differently
From women

The African child
Is a child soldier
A slave child
Or a mere street child.

The African migrant
Is an illegal migrant:
No citizen
But a refugee
In his home.

The African dies
Differently
From humans.

The African’s
Birth mark
Is a black scar

The African
Is African:
Not human.

That is why
African leaders,
A little more African
Than Africans,
Insist on
African solutions
To the African
Pathos.

© 2006, Chris Magadza
From: Father and other poems
Publisher: Poetry International Web, 2006

digg » Blog Archive » "The Final Solution"? Gay Ugandans Could Face Death Penalty Under New Law
October 22nd, 2009 | LINK

[…] definitions for "homosexual behavior", extending the definition according to the blog Box Turtle Bulletin, from sexual activity to "merely touch[ing] another person with the intention of committing […]

“The Final Solution”? Gay Ugandans Could Face Death Penalty Under New Law « Feminist Mama Galore
October 26th, 2009 | LINK

[…] definitions for “homosexual behavior”, extending the definition according to the blog Box Turtle Bulletin, from sexual activity to “merely touch[ing] another person with the intention of committing […]

Elizabeth BaconSmith
October 31st, 2009 | LINK

This is what I wrote in response to being made aware of this situation:

This whole situation is egregious. That’s a term I learned when I worked with abused and neglected children. It means that whatever it applies to is so horrendous and horrific that its happening even once, just once, warrants action… it doesn’t require happening more than once, as in enough to see a pattern of abuse, to where action becomes necessary.

Unfortunately, the blacks in Africa, seem to come under a different standard for outrage to be deemed justified.

For me, it’s not time to cut the strings in cases like this, it’s time to attach some ropes… some serious ropes of support and defense of human rights being so egregiously violated that they cannot be ignored. Cutting the strings of financial support, however, as your posting suggests, [ . . . ], seems a good idea to me. For now, the most support I can be is with my name and message.

When I went to the site through the link that Cate provided, I found this poem in one of the comments. I find it to be a tragically representative commentary of how the human rights issues in Africa often end up being regarded by the rest of the world.

[I quoted the “Anatomy of African Pathos” poem here.]

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