Human Rights Activists: Ugandan President Pledges to Reject “Fascist” Anti-Homosexuality Bill
January 18th, 2014
The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights issued a press release saying that a delegation met with Uganda President Yoweri Museveni to discuss the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. This meeting follows a letter written by the center’s president Kerry Kennedy and retired South African Archbishop Desmund Tutu asking for a meeting. The meeting happened today in Entebbe:
The delegation – comprised of Ms. Kennedy, Santiago A. Canton, Director of RFK Partners for Human Rights, and Wade McMullen, Staff Attorney for the RFK Center – expressed their grave concern over the legislation that would further criminalize homosexual conduct, censor freedom of expression, and ban civil society organizations working on LGBTI issues in Uganda. Archbishop Desmond Tutu who joined the conversation via telephone similarly expressed his concern, stating the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was reminiscent of oppressive laws passed under apartheid in South Africa.
President Museveni pledged to reject the bill as currently drafted, calling the legislation “fascist.” The President stated that he will consult with his party and plans to introduce a new piece of legislation aimed at protecting minors from being coerced into sexual activity.
The RFK Center reiterated that the government should focus on enforcing the Ugandan Penal Code provisions that already outlaw both opposite-sex and same-sex sexual abuse of minors. Should new legislation be introduced along the lines of the President’s suggestion, the RFK Center strongly advised that any bill should only focus on strengthening current child protection measures, may not discriminate against individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and must fully respect the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association.
“I welcome President Museveni’s decision to reject this hateful bill,” said Archbishop Tutu. “It is time for our African brothers and sisters to move past the antiquated notion that someone could be a criminal for who they love.”
If Museveni holds to his promise, this would be welcome news. A news report yesterday erroneously suggested that Museveni had already pledged in a letter dated December 28to refuse to assent to the Anti-Homosexuality bill passed by Parliament a week earlier. Once the full contents of that letter became available, it became clear that Museveni had not made any such pledge at that time.
The letter also dwelled extensively on fears that individuals were being “recruited” into homosexuality by economic incentives. That concern, rather than child sexual abuse specifically, may be behind his motivation for new legislation, as pedophilia is often conflated with homosexuality in Uganda, as it is elsewhere in anti-gay circles. Museveni’s desire for new legislation bears watching, and it’s good that the RFK Center reminded him that the Uganda Penal Code’s provisions against child sexual abuse are already gender neutral.
Museveni has said that he will bring the Anti-Homosexuality Bill up before his ruling party’s caucus for further discussion. There’s no word yet on when those discussions will take place.
In 2011, the RFK Center honored Ugandan LGBT advocate Frank Mugisha with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.