Human Rights Groups Petition Uganda’s Constitutional Court over Anti-Homosexuality Act
March 11th, 2014
Uganda’s Daily Monitor reports:
A coalition of fifty civil society organisations on Human rights today filed a petition in the constitutional court challenging the legality of Law on Homosexuality.
The activists argue that the Anti Homosexuality Act violates Ugandans’ Constitutionally guaranteed right to: privacy, to be free from discrimination, dignity, to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, to the freedoms of expression, thought, assembly and association; to the presumption of innocence, and to the right to civic participation.
In a statement issued by the Coalition Members, the petitioners said that the Act represents an effort by the Executive and Parliament to scapegoat an unpopular minority for political gain.
There are ten named petitioners, including LGBT rights activists Dr. Paul Semugoma (longtime BTB readers may know him as the formerly the anonymous blogger GayUganda), Freedom and Roam Uganda founder Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera, transgender rights activist Julian Pepe Onziema, and Sexual Minorities Uganda executive director Frank Mugisha. The petition was also signed by Joe Oloka-Onyango, a Professor of Law and Director of the Makerere University Human Rights and Peace Centre in Kampala; Andrew Mwenda, a journalist and founder of the Ugandan news magazine Independent; and M.P. Fox Odoi-Oywelowo. Rounding out the named petitioners are the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) and the Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD).
The petition states that the Anti-Homosexuality Act was passed by parliament without a proper quorum as required by Uganda’s Constitution and that it violates the Constitutions guarantees of equality and privacy. The petition also argies that “in criminalising touching by persons of the same sex, creates an offence that is overly broad and is in contravention of the principle of legality” under the Constitution. The petition then goes on to each clause of the Anti-Homosexuality Act and describes the articles of the Constitution the clause violates.
It would appear that the law itself is not yet officially in effect. The final step to make a law official is for it to be “gazetted,” or published in the official Uganda Gazette. This is a common formality in a number of British Commonwealth nations, but Daily Monitor notes that the Anti-Homosexuality Act has not yet undergone that step. The petition asks the court to “permanently stay() the gazetting of the Anti-Homosexuality Act.”
The petition is also calling on the court to issue an order barring media from publishing photos, names, addresses and occupations of people thought to be gay. Since President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act on February 24, tabloids like Red Pepper, Hello and others have been waging mass vigilante campaigns on their front pages and publishing other stories designed to incite hatred and violence. There have been reports on blogs and social media that LGBT people are receiving eviction notices from their landlords.
Tweets of the Week
March 1st, 2014
Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, met with National Security Advisor Susan Rice and members of the National Security Council.
Ugandan LGBT Activists React
February 24th, 2014
Frank Mugisha is the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda:
Pepe Julian Onziema changed his Twitter name to IAMGoingNowhere:
Kasha Jacqueline heads Freedom and Roam Uganda:
Uganda President Denounces — But Does Not Block — the Anti-Homosexuality Bill
January 17th, 2014
My suspicions were confirmed. Buzzfeed’s J. Lester Feder has obtained a copy of the December 28 letter that Uganda President Yoweri Museveni sent to Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga which an article in this morning’s Daily Monitor charactrized as “blocking” the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. As Daily Monitor pointed out, Museveni criticized Kadaga and Parliament for rushing to pass the bill without the proper quorum, an act that violates the Uganda Constitution. However, there is nothing in the letter to indicate that Museveni will send the bill back to Parliament as provided in the Constitution. Nor does he indicate whether he considers the bill to be legitimately sitting on his desk awaiting action. As Feder notes, this provides little comfort to Uganda LGBT activists:
Though Museveni argues the bill was not duly passed, under the Ugandan constitution, a bill sent by parliament to the president becomes law with in 30 days if he does not block it.
“The danger is he has the bill, and 30 days may end” without him taking formal action, (Sexual Minorities Uganda executive director Frank) Mugisha said. The letter is dated December 28, which means Museveni has under two weeks at most to reject the bill. But the deadline could be as soon as Monday or Tuesday if he received the bill immediately after its passage on December 20.
Additionally, Mugisha said, Museveni’s long discussion of how homosexuality is “abnormal,” he added, could “increase hatred.”
Feder has posted the entire letter on Scribd. Certainly, the excerpts quoted in Daily Monitor represent some of the more inflammatory remarks, and those selective quotes certainly pose a danger of stoking readers’ homophobia. But reading the entire letter — once you get past the first two pages where Museveni discusses other matters — provides a great deal of insight into Museveni’s thinking which, at least in the Uganda context, is somewhat more “balanced,” relatively speaking, than the Daily Monitor article suggests.
On the whole, Museveni sees two kinds of gay people: people who are really gay (who he calls the “abnormals”), and those who, according to popular lore in Uganda, are “recruited” into homosexuality for economic reasons. What’s interesting is that in the second to last paragraph, he expresses his doubts that the second camp could be, as he put it “‘hooked’ into homosexuality.” As for the former group (the “abnormals”), he suggests, in his own way, that they are more or less born that way (to borrow a phrase that he does not use), and have the same right to exist as albinos, people with epilepsy, infertile women, and other “abnormals” who were also created by God.
Museveni also describes famous Ugandans from the pre-colonial era who were gay and who “did outstanding and really unique service to the respective communities, their private problems notwithstanding.” He also noted the British mathematician and cryptologist Alan Turing, “the genius mathematician that cracked the German Enigma code for the anti-Hitler alliance. … Only the other day, the Queen had to apologize to this sexually abnormal person but much more useful to society than the millions of sexually normal people.”
The entire letter, which I have transcribed below, is something everyone should read in full, as it shows a man who is struggling to come to grips with something that he does not quite understand, and is taking the time to try to think it out in writing.
…Recently, we had the anti-homosexuality Bill. This is, again, something we advised to shelve until we had studied it in depth. Some elements, however, insisted and, even without quorum of Parliament, “passed” it. How can you “pass” law without the quorum of Parliament after it has been pointed out? What sort of Parliament is this? How can Parliament be the one to break the Constitution and the Law repeatedly?
Coming to the substance of the homosexual debate, I would like to ask: “Who is a Homosexual?” My answer is that a homosexual is somebody who is abnormal because the normal person was created to be attracted to the opposite sex in order to procreate and perpetuate the human race. The same goes for other species — cattle, pigs, etc. Indeed, my Bishop of North Ankole, Rt. Rev. Muhanguzi, was partially right in one of his sermons when he asked the following question: “Ruhanga nabaasa okwehakanisa? — How can God contradict himself by saying in the Book of Genesis that Adam should be given a wife, Eve, and then also create homosexuals?”
Since I have not concentrated my mind on this subject, Bishop Muhanguzi’s question sounded logical. However, now that I have been forced to concentrate my mind on this issue by the actions of a small group of our MPs, led by the Rt. Hon. Kadaga, I can see the fallacy in Bishop Muhanguzi’s position. Who creates albinos? Is it not the same God that creates other people — Black Africans and Europeans? Do albinos create themselves? No. Simply, nature goes wrong in a minority of cases. Fortunately, our indigenous science has since millennia detected and described these abnormalities. Albinos are called nyamagoye. Homosexuals are called ebitiingwa or ebisiyiyagyi (Luganda). Epilepsy is called entsiimbo. A barren women [sic] is called enguumba (in the past it was not widely known that men could also be enguumba ). There is another abnormality known as “epa” — where a woman does not achieve puberty by not developing breasts (amabeere), pubic hair (enza), hairs in the arm-pit (ebyakyeeri) or menstruate (okuzira). There are Mongols (ebigoori-goori), etc., etc. In Runyankore some of these are called amahano. In the pre-colonial times, I think, some of these were killed, especially epa. So were even lighter cases of, for instances, pre-marital pregnancy, ebinyandaalo. These abnormalities are different from disability, obumuga or oburema. The other is eihano (abnormal) and the other is ekimuga or ekirema (disabled). The difference is that a disabled person is a normal person but who got disabled in some aspect. Eihano is abnormal fundamentally mainly because the hormones malfunctioned.
The question at the core of the debate of the homosexuals is: “What do we do with an abnormal person? Do we kill him/her? Do we imprison him/her? Or do we contain him/her?”
In the traditional society, it is not very clear whether they would kill these abnormal people. What is clear is that they would try to contain these abnormalities by being particular about the person they married (okushweera) or got married to (kushweerwa). They used to kutaasha (report on the qualities of the intended bride). Unfortunately, this has been interfered with by the concept of “falling in love at first sight” grabbed by our “modern” women and men. This is a big mistake. What do you know about problems (blemishes — emizze) of the person you have fallen in love with at first sight?
I suspect this has been the problem in Europe and the West. Even there, they had the same principles in the past — of careful selection. They, however, abandoned these in preference for money initially and, eventually, for just, freelance bonding. It may be this that has increased the phenomena of the abnormal sexual conduct. The abnormal people have increased.
Apart from the people who are born abnormal, it seems there is a larger group of those that become homosexual for mercenary reasons — they get recruited on account of financial inducements. This is the group that can be rescued. Possibly many of our youth fall in his [sic] category. How about the women lesbians? Apart from the ones that are abnormal and the ones that may become lesbian for mercenary reasons, there may be those that go into that practice because of sexual starvation when they fail to get married. Women are normally more than men for reasons I do not know. In the past, this imbalance could have been addressed by polygamy. Some of the religions de-campaign this traditional practice. What happens, then, to these surplus women? I normally separate spiritual matters from social issues, ever since the 1960s. Some confuse the two: If socially you behave in a given manner, then you are not spiritual, they seem to say. My private view, which I never seek to impose on anybody, is that people can have different social arrangements but be very spiritual. Can’t a Moslem who is polygamous be as spiritual, as godly, as a Christian who is monogamous?
The groups that can be rescued, therefore, are those who are homosexual or lesbian for mercenary reasons or on account of frustration — failure to get legal partners. The rescue for these mercenary deviants is, first and foremost, economic — rapidly industrialize Uganda, modernize agriculture, etc. Do not delay any project of factory, services or infrastructure. By so doing you are exposing those unemployed youth or impecunious students to these risks and temptations. If you do not do this and you only talk about legislation, you are a quack social doctor. Even with legislation, they will simply go underground and continue practicing homosexuality or lesbianism for mercenary reasons. By providing for UPE, USE, Government scholarship, the student loan scheme, etc. we are trying to rescue our youth from extreme need. However, these do not cover their other financial needs — pocket money, necessities like videos, poor parents, unemployed siblings, etc., etc. Do we not have legislation against prostitution? Why has it not stopped prostitution?
In addition to working on the social-economic issues of our youth with great vigour (instead of behaving as if we are doing a favour to the investors who bring projects here), yes, we should legislate harshly against these people with money, from within and without, who take advantage of the desperation of our youth to lure them into these abnormal and deviant behaviors. I would support a life sentence for the one who lures normal youth into these disgusting behaviours — especially homosexuality. On this one I would agree with the Bill passed by Parliament.
The unanswered question, however, is: What do you do with the really abnormal people? In the Ankole-Kigezi-Buganda-Tooro-Bunyoro-Karagwe area, in the last 200 years, I am aware, through rumours, that there have been, at least, three very prominent persons who were homosexuals. Two were kings and one was a prominent chief. Some of these did outstanding and really unique service to the respective communities, their private problems notwithstanding. Only the other day, I saw on television that Dr. Allan Turing, the genius mathematician that cracked the German Enigma code for the anti-Hitler alliance, at Bletchely Park in the UK, was a homosexual. This man, along with the discovery of radar, gave an unfair advantage to the anti-Hitler group and enabled them to win the war. Yet, the British chemically castrated him in 1952, where-upon he committed suicide, apparently. Were the British correct in handling that issue like that? The British no longer think so. Only the other day, the Queen had to apologize to this sexually abnormal person but much more useful to society than the millions of sexually normal people.
Therefore, the challenge is how to correctly handle the sexually abnormal on the one hand and those who use money or any other influence to recruit sexually normal people into this abnormal and disgusting behaviour. When we meet in the NRM caucus, we shall, I am sure, find a scientifically correct position.
Three final points. One is the reason given for the hurry in rushing some of these legislations: “There is a lot of homosexuality in schools, etc.” Yes, that may be so. What, then, does it mean? Does it mean that homosexuality is more attractive? OR is it because of the bad economic conditions for the families of these children that drive them into homosexuality for mercenary reasons? Is it not the same economic conditions for the rural families that I have been talking about since 1995 when I made a countrywide tour after successfully experimenting with socio-economic transformation in the Nyabushozi area? Who do we not, all of us, put more vigour in the struggle for homestead incomes using the resource the Government has been sending to the rural areas? With the Army officers and Hon. Kataike, we have been able to distribute more than 5 million seedlings of coffee since September, 1 million seedlings of tea, 235,000 seedlings of fruits, etc. If we all supervised NAADS in our respective areas of representation, we would have gone much further in putting incomes into the homesteads so that we eliminate the poverty that makes our youths vulnerable.
The second point is that people who become homosexuals for mercenary reasons will get “hooked” to homosexuality. I doubt very much. What is there in homosexuality that would attract a normal human being? A man to fail to be attracted by the beauties of a female body and is attracted to the anus (I now understand) of another man can only represent terrible sickness. Let us cure the economic conditions so that we can rescuer our youth and, then, see how to deal with the few abnormals that may be there among us.
Finally, I do not agree with the position of the Western countries that homosexuality is an alternative sexual orientation to heterosexuality. You cannot call an abnormality an alternative orientation. It could be that the Western societies, on account of random breeding, have generated many abnormal people. Nevertheless, you cannot say that because the abnormals are many, they constitute an alternative way of life. My acid test for rejecting that position is that nature is purposeful. One of the main purposes of man is to perpetuate life. You cannot perpetuate human life without copulation of opposite sexes for the majority of animal species. Even many plants rely on cross-pollination. It is only a few that rely on self-pollination. Therefore, homosexuality and lesbianisn, if not mercenary or out of social frustration (for sexually starved women), is an abnormality and must be treated as such.
Sexual Minorities Uganda Reacts To Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s Passage
December 20th, 2013
Sexual Minorities Uganda has issued this release in response to Parliament’s passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill:
For Immediate Release
[Kampala, Uganda December 20, 2013]- Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) has learnt with deep regret that the ninth Parliament of Uganda has passed the Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009.
SMUG has learnt that the Bill as passed by Parliament maintains the prohibition of consensual same sex acts between adults and prescribes a penalty of life imprisonment for so-called repeat offenders. It also requires “persons in authority, including persons exercising religious or social authority to report offences under the Act within twenty four hours or else face imprisonment for three years or a fine.” Furthermore, the Bill maintains the offence of “Promotion of Homosexuality” against anyone who acts as an accomplice or in any way abets homosexuality and “related practices”.
“I’m outraged and disappointed that the Uganda parliament has acted in a very ignorant and irrational way” said Frank Mugisha the Executive Director, SMUG. “We shall fight this legislation TO THE END.” he asserts.
While the Bill is yet to be signed into law by the President, SMUG condemns in the strongest terms the haphazard manner in which Members of Parliament passed it with little if any regard to procedure and to whether it complies with the 1995 Constitution as the Supreme law of Uganda. SMUG has received reliable information that the Bill was passed without the requisite quorum despite protests from some Members of Parliament. There is also no evidence that the Bill was subjected to the Human Rights Checklist which the Speaker of Parliament launched late this year.
“Today will go down in history as the worst day for LGBTI identifying persons and human rights in general. The passing of the bill has caused significant panic even before its assented” Mr. Mawadri, SMUG Legal/Human Rights Officer.
Should the President assent to the Bill, it would greatly undermine the fundamental Constitutional Rights of equality and non-discrimination of Ugandan citizens who identify as Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual (LGB). The Act would also have dire implications for the rights to privacy, assembly, association and speech in addition to other basics rights of members of the LGBTI community in Uganda. If assented to, the law would as well spell a major setback for the freedoms of association of human rights organisations engaged in the promotion of these rights. The law would also curtail Uganda’s gains against HIV/AIDS as it may compromise doctor-patient confidentiality, which could push LGB affect persons further underground for fear of prosecution.
SMUG reiterates that the Anti Homosexuality Bill undermines rather than upholds the family as it seeks to create fear and suspicion within families and societies and entrenches state sponsored homophobia.
The Act also undermines Uganda’s obligations under international and regional human rights instruments, which uphold the basic human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination.
SMUG calls upon; the President of the Republic of Uganda H.E Gen. Yoweri K. Museveni not to sign this bill into law so as to prevent its dire effects on human rights work and HIV/AIDS progress in Uganda.
We also call upon the entire international community to remind Uganda of its international treaty obligations and to join hands against the Anti Homosexuality Bill.
SMUG remains committed to pursue all possible lawful means to challenge the existence of such an intrusive law on Uganda’s Statute books, and to defend the fundamental human rights of sexual and gender minorities in Uganda.
Update: Here’s a link.
Uganda’s Parliament Passes Anti-Homosexuality Bill (UPDATED)
December 20th, 2013
— Martin Ssempa (@martinssempa) December 20, 2013
Breaking News : I am officially illegal : Uganda Parliament passes the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009
— Dr. Frank Mugisha (@frankmugisha) December 20, 2013
AHB being debated right now in Parliament of Uganda. Motion for 2nd reading. Be very alert. Police raided our workshop just yesterday.
— Kasha Jacqueline (@KashaJacqueline) December 20, 2013
There are multiple reports from Uganda media indicating that the nation’s Parliament has given its final approval to the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill today. The independent Daily Monitor leads with the story:
Parliament has passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009, which proposes life imprisonment for homosexual acts.
A proposal for a 14-year-sentence for those convicted for homosexual acts, which the Bill criminalises, was rejected by Members of Parliament who instead maintained the life imprisonment proposal.
After voting to pass the Bill into law MPs asked the President to assent to it fast enough so it becomes law. They also passed a motion thanking the House Speaker for the “gift”.
The prime minister opposed the vote, saying not enough MPs were present. …She says that Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi might follow up on his complaints about a lack of quorum, while it remains to be seen whether President Yoweri Museveni will sign the bill into law.
The government-owned New Vision reports that the Prime Minister said “there would be further ‘consultations’ on part of the government.” It also reports that President Yoweri Museveni “will decide if it becomes law or not.”
Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga’s decision to bring the bill up for a vote appears to have been a surprise. There has been no indication that the bill would be brought for a vote in the Order Papers posted on Parliament’s web site.
It is unclear which provisions of the bill’s original proposals made it into the final version passed by Parliament. This BBC report indicates the death penalty was dropped, but news agencies, including the BBC, have a very long history of getting this wrong before. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the death penalty was removed in favor of life imprisonment.) Last year, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee made numerous recommendations to the bill, but held those recommendations secret. Warren Throckmorton has obtained a copy of those recommendations and posted them here. The original bill (PDF: 847KB/16 pages) contained the following provisions:
Clauses 1 and 2: Anybody Can Be Gay Under the Law. The definition of what constitutes “homosexual act” as defined in the first two clauses are so broad that just about anyone can be convicted of just about anything, including “touching” with the “intent” of committing “homosexuality,” even when fully clothed. It also sets the penalty for any “homosexual act” as life imprisonment. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended reducing that sentence to fourteen years, but based on news reports it appears that Parliament has rejected that recommendation. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the subclause outlawing “touching” with the “intent” of committing homosexuality was deleted.)
Clause 3: Anyone Can Be “Liable To Suffer Death”. And you don’t even have to be gay to be sent to the gallows. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended replacing the death penalty with a life sentences, but it is not clear whether Parliament approved that recommendation. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the death penalty was removed in favor of life imprisonment.) But can anyone seriously imaging that spending a lifetime in Uganda’s notorious Luzira prison is any better? Especially once your fellow prisoners learn that you were sent there for “aggravated homosexuality”?
Clause 4: Anyone Can “Attempt to Commit Homosexuality”. All you have to do is “attempt” to “touch” “any part of of the body” “with anything else” “through anything” in an act that does “not necessarily culminate in intercourse.” The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended the removal of this clause for being “too hard and difficult to prove and may cause absurdities.” (Update: Parliament Watch conforms that Clause 4 was deleted.)
Clauses 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10: How To Get Out Of Jail Free. The bill is written to openly encourage and even opens the possibility for financial incentives for one partner to turn state’s evidence against another. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended the removal of Clause 8, which would have prohibited the “conspiracy to engage in homosexuality.” The committee also recommended the removal of Clause 10, which would have prohibited the “detention with intent to commit homosexuality.” The reason given for the removal of both clauses was to prevent “absurdities.” At this time it is unknown whether Parliament followed through on those recommendations. (Update: Parliament Watch confirms that Clause 8 was deleted. They also confirm that Clause 10 was deleted.)
Clauses 7, 11, and 14: Straight People In The Crosshairs. The bill has specific clauses that would also target family members, doctors, lawyers, and even landlords for refusing to turn gay people over to the police or providing services to anyone that they know to be gay. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating Clause 14 (“failure to disclose”), but it’s unclear whether Parliament adopted that recommendation. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the “failure to disclose” clause was deleted.) Providing services or providing lodgings still appear to be illegal.
Clause 12: Till Life Imprisonment Do You Part. Officiating a same-sex wedding results in up to three years’ imprisonment. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended changing the penalty for entering into a marriage from life to fourteen years. It’s unclear whether that recommendation was adopted. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the penalty for conducting a marriage was raised to seven years.)
Clause 13: The Silencing of the Lambs. All advocacy — including suggesting that the law might be repealed — will result in prison sentences.
Clause 14: The Requirement Isn’t To Report Just Gay People To Police. It’s To Report Everyone. A closer look shows that the requirement to report doesn’t just apply to gay people, but to anyone, gay or straight, who violates the law’s clauses. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the “failure to disclose” clause was deleted.)
Clauses 16 and 17: The Extra-Territorially Long Arm of Ugandan Law. “Crimes” committed outside of Uganda by Ugandan citizens or residents will result in prosecution in Uganda.The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating these clauses, but it’s unclear whether Parliament adopted that recommendation
Clause 18: We Don’t Need No Stinking Treaties. The bill not only violates several international treaties, it also turns the Ugandan constitution on its head. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating Clause 18, but it’s unclear whether Parliament adopted that recommendation
Clauses 15 and 19: The Establishment Clauses For The Ugandan Inquisition. These clauses empower the Ethics and Integrity Minister to enforce all of the bill’s provisions. He’s already gotten a head start.
Uganda’s President Denies Anti-LGBT Persecution
March 20th, 2013
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni reportedly told a visiting delegation from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights that there was no marginalization or killing of LGBT people in Uganda. Both the government-owned New Vision and the independent Daily Monitor reported on Museveni’s remarks yesterday According to New Vision:
President Yoweri Museveni has said the issue of homosexuality and lesbianism has been totally distorted leading to wrong public debate.
“In our society, there were a few homosexuals. There was no persecution, no killings and no marginalization of these people but they were regarded as deviants. Sex among Africans including heterosexuals is confidential,” Museveni said.
“If am to kiss my wife in public, I would lose an election in Uganda. Western people exhibit sexual acts in public which we don’t do here,” he said, adding that, Africans do even punish heterosexuals who publically expose their sexual acts.
The president said what is new is the way Europeans and other Western people handle the issue of sexuality in general, including public flaunting which is a problem and luring young people into acts of homosexuality for money.
He said attempts to promote homosexuality as an alternative way of life has led to engagements in running battles with the church.
“You have a lot of room in your house, why don’t you go there. Sex is a bilateral issue, not a multilateral one,” he said.
Among the delegation was Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy. In 2011, the Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights honored Sexual Minorities Uganda executive director Frank Mugisha with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. According to Daily Monitor:
Ms Kennedy, who was accompanied by several lawyers, actors and religious leaders, expressed concern over the pending Anti-Homosexuality bill, reports of harassment of the Gay and Lesbian Community in Uganda and over the exposure of the identities of sexual minority groups. She also said the pending bill on homosexuality works against the international law treaties that Uganda has signed. Ms Kennedy cautioned against the misconceptions that equate paedophiles with homosexuals.
New Vision reported that Kennedy also told Museveni that “it is a violation of people’s rights to put pictures of sexual minority groups in the [news] papers.” Museveni reportedly promised to investigate:
Reacting to various issues raised by the team, Museveni said he would investigate claims of violence against homosexuals, adding that for a viable solution, activists must respect the confidentiality of sex in our traditions and culture. He reiterated that in Uganda, “there is no discrimination, no killings, no marginalization, no luring of young people using money into homosexual acts”.
Museveni did not directly address the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which still incudes the death penalty for what it defines as “aggravated homosexuality.” Some observers believe that in these statements he was distancing himself from the proposed legislation. I don’t see it that way at all. Besides, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been an exceptionally useful tool for Museveni’s government as it pursues other political agendas.
The bill still remains on Parliament’s agenda, under the heading of “Business to follow,” where it has occupied various spots since November. Parliament is currently on break until April as it wrangles over the highly controversial Marriage and Divorce Bill, which is wrapped up in highly emotional arguments over women in society and, in addition, pits government policy against entrenched and longstanding tribal practices. In fact, it was a walk out by women MP’s in a dispute over the Marriage and Divorce Bill in the closing days of the Eighth Parliament in 2011 which prevented the Anti-Homosexuality Bill from coming to a vote. With the Marriage and Divorce Bill back on the agenda, it appears that the AHB is again playing its normal role, having been placed on stand-by in case a unifying vote is needed to heal fractures in Parliament, or if a popular vote is needed to salve outraged sectors of the general public.
Uganda LGBT Advocate Arrested for “Recruiting Into Homosexuality”
January 1st, 2013
According to information provided in a couple of Facebook postings and confirmed by Ugandan LGBT advocates, Kaweesi Joseph, a founding member of the Ugandan LGBT advocacy and support group Youth on Rock Foundation was arrested on December 30 for what is described as “acts of homosexuality and recruiting juveniles.” The circumstances behind his arrest remain unclear. Kenyan activist Denis Nzioka has confirmed that Kaweesi has been arrested by police and is in custody at Kawempe police station in a suburb north of Kampala.
The charges against Kaweesi remain unclear. Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, with punishment ranging from twenty years to life, depending on how prosecutors chose to apply the law. Because other reports appear to allude to “unnatural offences,” it appears that police are looking to charge Kaweesi under Section 145 of Uganda’s Penal Code, which reads:
Any person who— (a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; (b) has carnal knowledge of an animal; or (c) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature, commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for life.
But as legal observers point out, there is no law barring “recruiting,” although the term has two distinct but often conflated meanings in the Ugandan context. Anti-gay rhetoric in Uganda has it that the only way people become gay is that they are “recruited” into homosexuality, either through “defilement” or by otherwise providing support for LGBT youth and adults. “Defilement,” which refers to rape or sexual abuse, is obviously against the law. But the fact that the term “defilement” is not being used here seems to indicate that police are using the term “recruiting” to mean providing support or services for gay people. Aside from the sheer impossibility of “recruiting” anyone into being gay, Ugandan law currently does not prohibit advocacy or providing support services for LGBT people, although the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill would outlaw all such support.
According to Deniz Nzioka at Identity Kenya:
Local activists confirmed the incident and were looking into ways to secure the release of Kaweesi. Additionally, TRF updated on their Facebook page on the same and urged members to be exercise caution.
A lawyer was in touch with Kaweesi and it was expected that he would post bail to ensure he is released.
In a more recent Facebook posting, it is reported that Kaweesi is still in police custody and will be spending his third night in jail. Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) Executive Director Frank Mugisha confirms via Facebook:
Today at Police they pulled up one of the ugandan gay facebook pages as evidence,against a ugandan gay guy who has been arrested,please be careful with what you post on fb esp people in the closet.
Last week, the offices of Sexual Minorities Uganda were broken into, and several computers with their hard drives were stolen. It is not known what information was contained in those hard drives or whether that theft has led to this arrest.
Uganda’s Parliament is currently on break for the Christmas holidays. It may take up debate on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill when it resumes in February. Several prominent pastors, including the new Anglican Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, have called for the bill’s passage in their New Year’s addresses earlier today “to avert the recruitment of youngsters to adopt the same-sex behaviour.”
Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill Remains A Threat Even If Parliament Session Ends Tomorrow
December 13th, 2012
Frank Mugisha, Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda was on hand for a press conference call earlier this afternoon sponsored by the Center for Constitutional Rights. During the phone call, Mugusha brought us up to date on the current status of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill:
“It is important to note that Parliament is most likely to close tomorrow, the 14th of December, or the 20th of December. The Speaker has indicated that she might ask for an extension to the 20th. If Parliament closes tomorrow, that means this session will have closed before the antigay bill is debated. And then we’ll wait until January when Parliament reconvenes.”
It’s important to note Frank’s last sentence. Once Parliament goes on Christmas break, then it will simply pick up business from where it left off when it reconvenes in January. This is not the same as what happened in May 2011, when the Eight Parliament expired at the end of its five year term. This current Parliament, the Ninth, will remain in effect until 2016.
I wanted to get this out there because it appears that some confusion is circulating about what it will mean procedurally when Parliament goes on break. For example, The Advocate, whose reporter Sunnivie Brydum was also part of the call, is reporting that the bill may “die a procedural death as early as tomorrow.” But moving from one Parliamentary Session to the next does not interrupt the House’s business, nor does it cause any bills to die. When the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was reintroduced into Parliament in February, it occurred during a meeting of the First Session. Since then, Parliament has gone on a couple of breaks, and it officially started its Second Session last summer with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill remaining in play. So as Frank points out, if Parliament does not take up the Anti-Homosexuality Bill before going on its Christmas break, then we will then have to wait until Parliament reconvenes, probably in January, to see what happens then.
As Frank noted, it is unclear whether Parliament will actually break for Christmas tomorrow as originally announced, or whether Speaker Kadaga or her Deputy will call for Parliament to continue meeting next week. Kadaga is currently in Italy where she is leading a Uganda delegation for — get this! – the World Parliamentary Conference on Human Rights. Frank expressed doubt that the Uganda Parliament would take up the bill before going on break, noting that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was at the top of Parliament’s list of “Business to follow” beginning November 27 before dropping to number two a week ago and then to number six yesterday.
But what happens if Parliament does decide to move the Anti-Homosexuality Bill up on its agenda, either before its break or after it returns? Frank told the press conference:
“If this legislation comes before Parliament for debate, there is a lot of support from members of Parliament. So definitely, it will be passed, and if this legislation is passed, it is sent over to the President of Uganda to sign. There has been a rumor that the President of Uganda may not sign this legislation, and in that case, I think the President might sign this legislation.
“However, he might ask for this legislation to be reviewed and watered down. Also, if he refused to sign this legislation and it has been rejected, our Parliament can still pass the legislation if a certain percentage of Parliament supports the legislation.”
According to Uganda’s Constitution (PDF: 460KB/192 pages, see pages 68-69), the pathway looks like this:
91. Exercise of legislative powers.
(1) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the power of Parliament to make laws shall be exercised through bills passed by Parliament and assented to by the President.
(2) A bill passed by Parliament shall, as soon as possible, be presented to the President for assent.
(3) The President shall, within thirty days after a bill is presented to him or her—
(a) assent to the bill;
(b) return the bill to Parliament with a request that the bill or a particular provision of it be reconsidered by Parliament; or
(c) notify the Speaker in writing that he or she refuses to assent to the bill.
(4) Where a bill has been returned to Parliament under clause (3)(b) of this article, Parliament shall reconsider it and if passed again, it shall be presented for a second time to the President for assent.
(5) Where the President returns the same bill twice under clause (3)(b) of this article and the bill is passed for the third time, with the support of at least two-thirds of all members of Parliament, the Speaker shall cause a copy of the bill to be laid before Parliament, and the bill shall become law without the assent of the President.
(6) Where the President—
(a) refuses to assent to a bill under clause (3)(c) of this article, Parliament may reconsider the bill and if passed, the bill shall be presented to the President for assent;
(b) refuses to assent to a bill which has been reconsidered and passed under paragraph (a) or clause (4) of this article, the Speaker shall, upon the refusal, if the bill was so passed with the support of at least two-thirds of all members of Parliament, cause a copy of the bill to be laid before Parliament, and the bill shall become law without the assent of the President.
(7) Where the President fails to do any of the acts specified in clause (3) of this article within the period prescribed in that clause, the President shall be taken to have assented to the bill and at the expiration of that period, the Speaker shall cause a copy of the bill to be laid before Parliament and the bill shall become law without the assent of the President.
It appears that the President can reject a bill he doesn’t like, but in the end he is ultimatenly subject to an over-ride by a two-thirds vote of Parliament.
If some form of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill does become law, Frank confirmed that SMUG plans to challenge the law in court for numerous violations of the Uganda Constitution.
Ugandan LGBT Activist Vows to Defy Ban
June 20th, 2012
UK’s The Guardian has some additional information about the Ugandan government’s announcement that they will ban 38 non-governmental organizations which include LGBT issues among their human rights concerns. Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, sees this move as being part of a much wider deterioration of human rights guarantees in Uganda:
Frank Mugisha, head of the NGO Sexual Minorities Uganda, said the minister’s ban was part of a wider assault on civil society in Uganda. “The government is trying to use homosexuality to crack down on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly,” he said. “If NGOs are closed down, they will not be able to support human rights.
“Simon Lokodo is very homophobic but it’s coupled with politics. He’s trying to gain popularity and make his name. The president should come out and distance himself from Lokodo.”
Sexual Minorities Uganda would defy any ban, insisted Mugisha, winner of the Robert F Kennedy human rights award last year. “We are definitely continuing our operations and we will still hold conferences. We will continue to ask for the oppressive laws that are being used to intimidate us to be abolished.
“They have said they are going to pass the bill before October. That won’t stop us. We shall continue to fight until all the legislation is cleared and we are free. Things are changing. It cannot be oppression forever.”
Mohammad Ndifuna, the director of Human Rights Network Uganda, another of the organisations to be banned, told Reuters: “We know that they have been all kinds of threats coming towards the [NGO] sector for different reasons.”
Lawsuit Filed Against Scott Lively For Instigating Anti-LGBT Persecution in Uganda
March 14th, 2012
The Center for Constitutional Rights has announced this morning that they are filing a lawsuit on behalf of Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG) against American anti-gay extremist Scott Lively for his role in “the decade-long campaign he has waged, in coordination with his Ugandan counterparts, to persecute persons on the basis of their gender and/or sexual orientation and gender identity.” CCR announced its action this morning in a conference call with reporters. I was among those participating in the call.
The complaint (PDF: 2.2MB/47 pages) was filed in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts at Springfield, where Lively currently resides. CCR is bringing the suit under the Alien Tort Statute, which provides federal jurisdiction for “any civil action by an alien, for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.” In other words, it allows a foreign national to sue in U.S. courts for violations of U.S. or international law conducted by U.S. citizens overseas. According to CCR, the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that ATS is a remedy for serious violations of international law norms that are “widely accepted and clearly defined.”
The crime against humanity in international law that CCR alleges that Lively violated is the crime of persecution, which is defined as the “intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of the identity of the group or collectivity.” CCR alleges that the defendant plaintif, Sexual Minorities Uganda, as well as individual staff members and member organizations, suffered severe deprivations of fundamental rights as a direct result of a coordinated campaign “largely initiated, instigated and directed” by Scott Lively.
In a conference call with reporters, CCR Senior Staff Attorney Pam Spees said that the Alien Tort Statute act had been applied in other specific cases of human rights violations against individuals. But she acknowledged that if this case prevails, it would establish a precedent for applying it to the crime of persecution, which, as a crime against a group, is different from a general “ordering the killing of people in his custody.” She pointed out U.S. asylum cases have acknowledged sexual orientation and gender identity and expression as legitimate claims for persecution.
Lively is best known for his role, reported first here on BTB, as featured speaker at an anti-gay conference held in Kampala in March 2009. During that conference, Lively touted his book, The Pink Swastika, in which he claimed that gays were responsible for founding the Nazi Party and running the gas chambers in the Holocaust. Lively then went on to blame the Rwandan genocide on gay men and he charged that gay people were flooding into Uganda from the West to recruit children into homosexuality via child sexual molestation.
During that same trip, Lively met with several members of Uganda’s Parliament. Only two weeks later, there were already rumors that Parliament was drafting a new law that “will be tough on homosexuals.” That new law, in its final form, would be introduced into Parliament later in October. Meanwhile, the public panic stoked by the March conference led to follow-up meetings, a march on Parliament, and a massive vigilante campaign waged on radio and the tabloid press. Lively would later boast that his March 2009 talk was a “nuclear bomb against the gay agenda in Uganda.”
In the complaint filed in Federal District Court, CCR provides details of Lively’s activities in Uganda going back to 2002, when Lively began touring Uganda and establishing contacts with leading Ugandan figures, including Stephen Langa (who organized the March 2009 conference) and Pentecostal pastor Martin Ssempa. While there, he was interviewed for major daily newspapers and appeared on radio and television. In a conference call with reporters, Spees said that Lively’s particular influence on Uganda’s religious leaders was the primary avenue for “telegraphing the sense of terror” through his accusations against the gay community, and that influence picked up significantly following the 2009 conference. The complaint includes several examples where Lively’s rhetoric showed up virtually verbatim in statements from Ugandan religious and political leaders. She also pointed out that the preamble of the bill’s original draft included language that was lifted straight out of conference materials.
Tarso Luís Ramos, Executive Director of Political Research Associates, echoed Spees’s assertion that Lively’s influence played a major role in the growing climate of persecution in Uganda. He described the main avenue of influence as from religious leaders like Lively to prominent Ugandan religious leaders who also wield considerable moral and political influence. Ramons said that during Lively’s 2009 trip to Uganda, he also met with members of the Ugandan Christian Lawyers Association and members of Parliament, and spoke at an assembly of 5,000 college students and at major pentecostal churches. According to the complaint, M.P. David Bahati, author of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, was among those who attended the Kampala conference. Bahati and former Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo were also named as co-conspirators in the complaint.
Ramos and Spees contrasted Lively’s role with that of the secretive U.S. organization known as The Family or The Fellowship. Spees described Lively as the “go-to guy whose rhetoric went into hyperspace to stamp out” LGBT people “in a strategic way.” She alleged that he provided a “tangible, clear plan” in contrast to The Family, which tried to distance itself from the bill. One part of the “clear plan” outlined in the complaint was Lively’s recommendation for the criminalization of LGBT advocacy in Uganda. That recommendation became Clause 13 in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Spees emphasized that while Lively’s “violent anti-gay rhetoric” forms a basis for the evidence of the complaint, the case is not about hate speech but what she described as his systematic efforts to provoke persecution in Uganda and elsewhere. She described Lively as a “key player in persecution” in a concerted effort to deprive and remove rights for LGBT Ugandans.
Speaking via telephone form Uganda, SMUG Executive Director Frank Mugisha welcomed the filing. He said that when the March 2009 Kampala conference was announced, they had no idea how far that conference’s influence would go. Before 2009, he described an atmosphere where people were somewhat freer to live in groups as gay people, but after the conference there were demonstrations, meetings, reports of arrests, people being thrown out of their houses and churches, beatings, and severe curbs on freedom of assembly. Just last month, Ugandan authorities raided a meeting by LGBT leaders at a hotel in Entebbe and tried to arrest Kasha Jacqueline Nabagese, founder of the lesbian rights group Freedom and Roam Uganda.
More information about the lawsuit against Lively can be found at the CCR web site.
Update: The New York Times has this reaction from Lively:
Reached by telephone in Springfield, Mass., where he now runs “Holy Grounds Coffee House,” a storefront mission and coffee shop, Mr. Lively said he had not been served and did not know about the lawsuit. However, he said: “That’s about as ridiculous as it gets. I’ve never done anything in Uganda except preach the Gospel and speak my opinion about the homosexual issue. There’s actually no grounds for litigation on this.”
Uganda’s Aggressive Pushback Over “Kill-The-Gays” Bill Publicity
January 18th, 2012
Last Friday, Perezi K. Kamunanwire, Uganda’s ambassador to the U.S. suddenly withdrew as keynote speaker for a Martin Luther King Day event sponsored by the United Negro College Fund on Monday after the UNCF expressed concern over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which had been revived in Uganda’s Parliament. UNCF president and CEO Michael Lomax wrote the Ambassador a letter expressing alarm over what he described as the bill’s “draconian penalties” and called on the ambassador to “address this issue when you speak at the King Day and take questions at the conclusion of your remarks.” The ambassador chose instead to withdraw from the event rather than face the uncomfortable questioning.
There has been an increasing aggressiveness in Uganda’s government and media against stepped up worldwide condemnation of countries which criminalize gay relationships. In recent weeks, we’ve even seen a stepped up hostility coming from what had been until now a very well-balanced independent newspaper, Daily Monitor. (More on that momentarily.) Ambassador Kamunanwire is playing his role in that push back. Yesterday, he blasted the UNCF for sending him an “incendiary” letter and claimed that the Uganda Parliament was not reconsidering the bill, despite numerous local reports to the contrary.
The aggressive push back has been joined by others in Uganda’s diplomatic staff. Yesterday evening, we received an email from a BTB reader in the Washington D.C. who was attending a talk by Rev. Mark Kiyimba, pastor of the New Life Kampala Unitarian Universalist Church, who was speaking at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Silver Spring, MD. Rev. Kiyimba has been a vocal opponent of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. According to the emailer, Dickson Ogwang, Minister Counselor at the Uganda Embassy in Washington, DC, rose during the Q&A session to give “the familiar government spin”, including misdirection about the brutal murder of Ugandan LGBT advocate David Kato. According to our reader, “Rev. Kiyimba responded well, but clearly was put in the difficult spot of being challenged to call a government minister a liar.” Our reader also observed:
“Mr. Ogwang looked mighty pleased to snap a digital photo of Rev. Kiyimba shaking hands with MD State Senator (and local LGBT rights champion) Jamie Raskin. My inner cynic wonders whether the photo will emerge in Ugandan press as “proof” that Ugandan gay rights advocates are merely tools of the West.”
There is certainly precedent for that. Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper and an until-now largely reliable source of information about developments over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, carried a lengthy, incendiary article in its Sunday Magazine on January 8. The article by Bernard Sabiti, an aspiring born-again politician and journalist, featured a large photo of LGBT advocate Frank Mugisha receiving the Rafto Foundation’s award for human rights in Bergen, Norway. The caption under the photo however reads, “Mr Mugisha receives one of his many awards for ‘bashing’ his motherland over gay rights.” Referencing Frank’s recent op-ed in the New York Times, the rest of the article goes downhill from there:
In a December 22 high-profile New York Times Op-ed titled “Gay and Vilified in Uganda”, Mr Mugisha repeats the same over-recycled allegations against his own country, in which he adds some even more absurd statements that are not true at all. In the article, for example, he writes that: “More benignly, if people are still single by the time they reach their early 20s, what Ugandans call a “marriage age,” others will begin to suspect that they are gay.”
This is hogwash. With more Ugandans spending more time at school and tightening economic conditions, who doesn’t know that marrying in late 20s and 30s is a very normal thing in Uganda these days?
Even after the Uganda Police concluded investigations which failed to link David Kato’s killers to homophobia and court appropriately sentencing them, in the article, Mr Mugisha still insinuates that “…because of this work, David was bludgeoned to death at his home, with a hammer.”
The matter of the Rolling Stone newspaper that published a list of homosexuals which is the basis of the western gay propaganda alleging that “the press” in from page 21
Uganda promotes murdering homosexuals is even too absurd to comment about. These people know nothing about Uganda’s culture, let alone that of the tabloid, where many journalism students try many stunts to come up with a publication that can sell in a tough media market and a poor reading culture.
Even “credible” newspapers here struggle yet they have been in the market far too long to stage competition against them. But many People here also love sensationalism and gossip and some enjoy nudity. That was what Giles Mahame, the Rolling Stone publisher, was tapping into.
If not, given the shrewdness of Ugandans, it wouldn’t be farfetched to say that the Rolling Stone stunt could have as well been a stunt by the homosexuals themselves to elicit international sympathy and the cash that no doubt followed it. [Emphasis added.]
The article has had its chilling effect. Frank told Michelangelo Signorile last weekend that he now fears for his life:
“Just two days ago there was a very big piece of news about me,” said Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, in an interview by phone from Kampala on my radio program on SiriusXM OutQ yesterday, referring to an article he says was written in a local newspaper, attacking him for writing the New York Times op-ed.
“It said that everything we are saying is not true. That we are just trying to get sympathy in the Western world. They put my picture in the newspaper with all these hate words and of course I got a lot of bad emails, bad phones, a lot of harassment against me.”
…”Every day of my life here in Uganda I have to be careful of what I do,” Mugisha said in the radio interview yesterday. “It has reached the point that where I even have to be careful when I’m going to get food in a restaurant, to be sure that the food I’m getting, that I trust the restaurant, because I’m scared I could get poisoned. Even when I want to go shopping I have to call a friend and say can you come with me because my face has been in the newspapers, my face has been in the media. Just two days ago when my face was put in the newspapers I received harassment already. Now it is my fear of stepping out my house. If I want to go and buy food, because I have to eat, what is going to happen to me today?”
Whether Rev. Kiyimba’s photo snapped last night will be deployed for a similarly sinister purpose remains to be seen. Clearly Uganda, along with many other African nations, are on the defensive over recent British and American announcements that the manner in which LGBT people are treated in their home countries are a matter of international concern. The predictable backlash is brewing. That’s not to say that the British and American positions are wrong or misguided. But we are seeing increasing fallout over the spotlight they have cast on Uganda and elsewhere. And it means that we need to follow those statements with greater vigilance, and we must demand that Uganda and other nations take positive actions to ensure the safety of all LGBT people, including their advocates and leaders.
Ugandan LGBT Advocate Pens Op-Ed for New York Times
December 23rd, 2011
Way to go, Frank Mugisha:
Many Africans believe that homosexuality is an import from the West, and ironically they invoke religious beliefs and colonial-era laws that are foreign to our continent to persecute us.
The way I see it, homophobia — not homosexuality — is the toxic import. Thanks to the absurd ideas peddled by American fundamentalists, we are constantly forced to respond to the myth — debunked long ago by scientists — that homosexuality leads to pedophilia. For years, the Christian right in America has exported its doctrine to Africa, and, along with it, homophobia. In Uganda, American evangelical Christians even held workshops and met with key officials to preach their message of hate shortly before a bill to impose the death penalty for homosexual conduct was introduced in Uganda’s Parliament in 2009. Two years later, despite my denunciation of all forms of child exploitation, David Bahati, the legislator who introduced the bill, as well as Foreign Minister Henry Okello Oryem and other top government officials, still don’t seem to grasp that being gay doesn’t equate to being a pedophile.
You can see BTB’s coverage of those 2009 workshops and meetings with Parliament here. Frank Mugisha is Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, where he works at great personal risk and sacrifice:
I remember the moment when my friend David Kato, Uganda’s best-known gay activist, sat with me in the small unmarked office of our organization, Sexual Minorities Uganda. “One of us will probably die because of this work,” he said. We agreed that the other would then have to continue. In January, because of this work, David was bludgeoned to death at his home, with a hammer. Many people urged me to seek asylum, but I have chosen to remain and fulfill my promise to David — and to myself. My life is in danger, but the lives of those whose names are not known in international circles are even more vulnerable.
Go read his entire op-ed before you do anything else today.
The Daily Agenda for Thursday, November 10
November 10th, 2011
Senate Judiciary Committee to Hold Markup for DOMA Repeal: Washington, D.C. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold an Executive Business Meeting this morning to go over, among other things, Senate Bill 598, known as the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. This bill was scheduled to be marked up last week, but Republicans on the panel forced a delay for a week. The Washington Blade has obtained copies of three proposed amendments:
Of the three amendments, only one is germane: a measure that would strike Section 2 of the Respect for Marriage Act. That portion of the bill enables federal benefits to flow to married gay couples even if they live in states that don’t recognize marriage equality. Under the bill as it currently stands, a couple could marry in a state such as New York, where same-sex marriage is legal and still receive federal benefits if they move to a state such as Michigan, which doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. The other two have no relevance to the Respect for Marriage Act, but still can be offered under Senate rules, which allow non-germane amendments to legislation.
The committee, chaired by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) will meet at 10:00 a.m. in Hart Senate Office Building, room 216, and will be webcast here. The House version of the Respect for Marriage Act has 128 co-sponsors, but because the House is under Republican control, it is extremely unlikely it will take action on the bill.
Frank Mugisha to Receive the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award: Washington, D.C. Ugandan LGBT advocate Frank Mugisha will be presented the prestigious human rights award in a ceremony at the Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building. The award will be presented by Kennedy’s widow, Ethel Kennedy, and Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
United States Conference on AIDS: Chicago, IL. Billed as the largest AIDS-related gathering in the U.S., the conference organized by the National Minority AIDS Council will kick off today, bringing together over 3,000 workers, including case managers, physicians, public health workers, advocates, people living with HIV/AIDS, and policy makers, to build national support networks, exchange the latest information and learn cutting-edge tools to address the challenges of HIV/AIDS. The three day conference begins today at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers.
Phyllis Lyon: 1924. The Oklahoma native earned a degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley in 1946 and worked as a reporter for a California paper before moving to Seattle to work at a magazine in 1950. That’s where she met the love of her life, Del Martin. They became a couple in 1953 when they moved to San Francisco together. “We really only had problems our first year together,” she later told The Washington Post. “Del would leave her shoes in the middle of the room, and I’d throw them out the window.” Del responded “You’d have an argument with me and try to storm out the door. I had to teach you to fight back.” Their life together was all about fighting back. In 1955 Phyllis and Del, along with six other women, formed the Daughters of Bilitis, the first national lesbian organization in the U.S. Phyllis was the first editor of the DOB’s groundbreaking newsletter, The Ladder from 1956 to 1960, when Del took over. Pseudonyms were common then, and Phillis edited The Ladder as “Ann Ferguson” for the first few months, but she dropped it to encourage their readers not to hide. By October 1957, they had 400 subscribers across the country. In 1964, they helped found the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, bringing together national religious leaders and gay and lesbian activists for a national discussion of gay rights. Phyllis was also the first open lesbian to serve on the board of the National Organization for Women in 1973. Phyllis and Del were also active in San Francisco’s Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club.
On February 12, 2004, Phyllis and Del married for the first time when San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom ordered that marriage licenses be granted to same-sex couples. That marriage lasted until August 12, but not because the couple split up. That was when the California Supreme Court voided several thousand marriage licenses given to same-sex couples. Del and Phyllis were deeply dissapointed. “Del is 83 years old and I am 79,” she said. “After being together for more than 50 years, it is a terrible blow to have the rights and protections of marriage taken away from us. At our age, we do not have the luxury of time.”
But they had the luxury of just enough time. They were married again on June 16, 2008 after the California Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting same-sex marriage was against the state constitution. Del and Phyllis were given the honor of being the first same-sex couple to be married, and they wore the same outfits in which they were first married in 2004. Del passed away two months later, on August 27, 2008.
If you know of something that belongs on the Agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).
As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.
Ugandan LGBT Advocate Awarded Rafto Prize
September 29th, 2011
The Rafto Foundation, a Norwegian human rights and democracy advocacy organization, announced today that they are awarding the 2011 Rafto Prize to Sexual Minorities Uganda and the group’s Executive Director, Frank Mugisha. According to the Rafto Foundation’s press release, “The Prize is awarded to SMUG for its work to make fundamental human rights apply to everyone, and to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.” The Foundation explains the reason for the recognition:
The human rights situation in Uganda in general, and the plight of sexual minorities in particular, is getting worse. They are blamed for social problems and are “the good enemy” that politicians can attack in order to garner support. In this situation, SMUG’s work is especially important. The battle they wage is for human rights’ most basic purpose: to protect individuals from abuses by the authorities and the majority. The Rafto Foundation hereby gives its support to the work against what former SMUG leader Victor Juliet Mukasa, characterized as a “state-sponsored homophobia that is spreading across the African continent”.
SMUG is a coalition of organisations that work for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI people, or sexual minorities, which is the term used by SMUG). Since its inception in 2004, SMUG has become a powerful voice for a stigmatised and persecuted minority. The coalition has played an important role in opposing the proposed “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” and has successfully used the legal system to fight harassment and violence from government and private actors. SMUG also does important work supporting individuals who suffer from abuse.
Frank Mugisha and his colleagues in SMUG have demonstrated great courage in fronting the fight for LGBTI people’s rights.
The 2011 Rafto Prize will be awarded in Bergen, Norway on November 6. Earlier this month, it was announced that Mugisha has been chosen to receive the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.
Uganda LGBT Advocate Receives Human Rights Award
September 15th, 2011
Frank Mugisha, Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), has been chosen to receive the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. From the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights:
“Frank Mugisha’s unbending advocacy for gay rights in Uganda in the face of deep-rooted homophobia is a testament to the indomitability of the human spirit,” said RFK Human Rights Award Judge Dean Makau Mutua, Professor of Law and Dean of the University at Buffalo Law School (SUNY).
…“Frank Mugisha has fought courageously in support of the rights of sexual minorities in Uganda, despite death threats and even exile,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. “He has become a leading advocate for sexual minorities in a country where they are persecuted, jailed, and their lives destroyed. We are proud at the RFK Center to begin our partnership with Mr. Mugisha to advance his invaluable work within this movement.”
…“For me, it is about standing out and speaking in an environment where you are not sure if you will survive the next day; it is this fear that makes me strong, to work hard and fight on to see a better life for LGBTI persons in Uganda,” said Mr. Mugisha. “The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award gives me courage and hope that my work, which may not be accepted and recognized in my own country, is making a change with this international visibility.”
Mugisha has been an LGBT advocate since 2004, when he began advocating for LGBT and HIV/AIDS awareness as a college student. He started a support group, Icebreakers, to help LGBT people who were struggling through the issues of coming out. He had to flee the country when police targeted him for arrest, but he has since returned to continue his advocacy work in the face of death threats and governmental efforts to impose the death penalty on gay people.
Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill Postponed Until Friday
May 11th, 2011
[Update: 8:00 p.m. EDT: Jacqueline Kasha Facebook status says:
The Bill kept being raised but because of time it wasnt discussed. However after all the reactions that came from MPs it has strong support.On our way out the Government whip together with another MP Odong Otto told security that we shouldnt be allowed back in parliament and that we should all go to the West.
Those statements mean that should the Bill be discussed on Friday which is the next date agreed by the house. Its very possible it will sail through. Today a Bill was discussed for the 2nd and 3rd reading and voting within 20mins, it didnt pass because of lack of quorum so meaning should the AHB reach the floor it will pass because it has a lot of support.
We need a HUGE miracle.
Jacqueline's assessment is considerably more pessimistic than Melanie Nathan's source. It's very difficult to handicap this race.]
[Update: 3:10 p.m. EDT: Melanie Nathan has an update: I have received word from a source in Uganda's Parliament that although the Bill is on the agenda for Friday, tomorrow being a national holiday for the swearing in of President Museveni, they assert that there is a very strong chance the Bill will not make it to the floor and that Parliament will be prorogued before it can be debated and voted upon. The source, stated that Cabinet members and government have been overwhelmed with e-mails, statements and complaints from all around the world. The source believes this may well factor into preference given to other Bills in the last moments of this Parliamentary Session. The source went further to state that it was made as a commitment to him from the Speaker that "there would not be time" to hear it. He did not necessarily trust the commitment." I think it is wise not to trust that commitment.]
[Update: 1:50 p.m. EDT: Frank Mugisha told the Associated Press that today's Parliament proceedings were interrupted by a walkout among women MP's who were upset over an unrelated bill (Both the Marriage and Divorce Bill and the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Bill have drawn fire from women's groups. It's unclear which bill triggered the walkout.) Parliament was then unable to continue due to a lack of quorum.]
Uganda’s Parliament has suspended business for the day without having taken up debate and a vote on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Sexual Minorities Uganda’s Frank Mugisha, who has been on hand at Parliament (and enduring insults from Parliament members as a result) just posted on Facebook that Parliament will reconvene on Friday with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill back on the agenda.
Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, has been focusing its resources on the larger ongoing turmoil over nationwide month-long riots, demonstrations, and today’s return of opposition leader Kizza Besigye from Nairobi, Kenya. He was expected to return to Entebbe today after having been treated in a Nairobi hospitals for injuries sustained at the hands of Uganda’s security forces. Ugandan security forces reportedly tried to block his return, and as of this writing it is still unclear whether he will be allowed to do so. Debate over Besigye’s return has overtaken events in Uganda’s Parliament, which may account for its sudden recess until Friday.
Warren Throckmorton also confirms that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill will be scheduled for Friday. While the 8th Parliament remains constitutionally in effect until May 18, a Parliament spokesperson told Throckmorton that Friday is the last day the current Parliament can act because swearing-in ceremonies for the 9th Parliament will begin on Monday.
Contrary to widespread mainstream media reports, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is neither dead nor dropped. This isn’t the first time mainstream media has gotten this wrong.
ADDENDUM, 5/14: It turns out that the walkout by women delegates was over the Marriage and Divorce Bill. The bill would have “it would abolish forced marriage and allow women to divorce their husbands on the basis of cruelty, among others,” according to Daily Monitor. The walkout occurred when the Attorney General said that he was not ready for the bill to be voted on.
Hearings Continue In Uganda’s Parliament on Anti-Homosexuality Bill
May 9th, 2011
[Update: Paul Canning alerted me to this 30-minute audio snippet from today's hearing. Beginning at the two-minute mark, the speaker describes how the bill is based upon false premises and is not supported by science:]
Warren Throckmorton has his ear to the ground on the rapidly developing situation in Uganda, where Parliament may be set to pass the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law. He reported that the Human Rights Commission, Sexual Minorities Uganda and the Coalition on Human Rights all testified against the bill during hearings today. The Associated Press reports that pastor Martin Ssempa testified again this morning, calling for the death penalty to be removed and replaced with seven year’s imprisonment. This is a remarkable backtracking from supporting lifetime imprisonment previously. Ssempa went on to call for the bill’s passage “because homosexuality is killing our society.”
LGBT Advocate and retired Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo also testified against the bill. He warned the committee that the bill would not make gay people suddenly disappear, but would instead turn Uganda into a police state. He also warned that the bill would result in an increase in the spread of HIV/AIDS because gay Ugandans would fear seeking treatment.
The AP also reported on the bill’s future:
Stephen Tashobya, the head of the parliament committee, said it is time legislators give the bill priority. He said a report on the bill would be ready by Tuesday and could be presented to parliament by the end of the week.
“Due to public demand the committee has decided to deal with bill,” Tashobya said. “The bill has generated a lot of interest from members of the public and members of parliament and that is why we spared some time deal with before this parliament ends.”
Parliament is due to end on May 11, although Parliament itself doesn’t constitutionally expire until the 18th. It’s not clear whether there is enough time for the bill to make it to the floor before the 11th, but Frank Mugisha of Sexual Minorities Uganda said that if Parliament does take up the bill, it will be almost certainly be passed. Warren Throckmorton, who is constantly updating this thread with new information as he finds it, comments on the bill’s prognosis:
Tashobya is quoted as saying he would have the report completed by tomorrow. However, he just told me a few minutes ago that he cannot promise to complete the report by tomorrow. He did say that he would complete the report before the end of Parliament which is the 18th of May. When I asked him how the Parliament could vote on a bill in this manner, he said that the Speaker (Edward Ssekandi) makes those decisions. Theoretically, the Speaker could call Parliament into session anytime before May 18 for a vote on any left over bills.
According to Tashobya, the Company bill did not pass today, and the Procurement bill was pushed to tomorrow, thus making it even more difficult for any new bills to come to the floor before Speaker Ssekandi’s end of official business date of May 11. The AHB coming to the floor appears to hinge on the completion of the committee report by Mr. Tashobya sometime tomorrow and the Speaker’s willingness to bring it to the floor on Wednesday. If this does not happen, the Speaker would have to call the MPs together sometime during the festivities of the Presidential inauguration and the swearing in of the new Parliament on the 18th.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, if passed in its current form, would impose the death penalty for those who are HIV-positive, who is a “repeat offender,” or whose partner is deemed “disabled” regardless of whether the relationship was consensual. It would also impose a lifetime sentence for other cases. Those provisions may be modified, although that still remains uncertain.
Even with those proposed modifications, the bill would still remain a potent threat to human rights. The bill would lower the bar for conviction, making mere “touching” for the perceived purpose of homosexual relations a criminal offense. It threatens teachers, doctors, friends, and family members with three years imprisonment if they didn’t report anyone they suspected of being gay to police within twenty-four hours. It also would broadly criminalize all advocacy of homosexuality including, conceivably, lawyers defending accused gay people in court or parliamentarians proposing changes to the law. It even threatens landlords under a “brothel” provision if they knowingly rent to gay people.
There is an AllOut petition which is now at about 40,000 signatures with a goal of 100,000 signatures by tomorrow. This will be presented at Parliament by Bishop Senyonjo tomorrow.
Action Alert from Sexual Minorities Uganda
January 31st, 2011
Frank Mugisha of Sexual Minorities Uganda sent out this action alert, offering practical advice of actions you can take in the wake of David Kato’s murder. I think one of the most salient pieces of advice he can give is this: In whatever you do, please, please not spread misinformation. “A highly political and delicate investigation is underway in a dangerous environment in Uganda,” he writes, “and therefore misinformation could be seriously damaging.”
Several resources are available to help you avoid inadvertently spreading disinformation. Val Kalende has an excellent update on the events and background surrounding David Kato’s murder. (Val was bravely featured in this Ugandan newspaper article here.) You can also review our own coverage of events in Uganda from 2009 through the Spring of 2010. For more recent events, you can follow our tags for Uganda and David Kato. Warren Throckmorton also has excellent coverage under his Uganda category.
HOW GLOBAL ALLIES SHOULD RESPOND TO THE MURDER OF DAVID KATO
29 JANUARY 2011
Our dear friend and colleague, David Kato, was brutally murdered on Wednesday, the 26th of January 2011. David was the advocacy officer of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and a longtime leading activist for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights.
The condolences and offers of support from the global community have been tremendous. On behalf of David’s family, colleagues and friends, we thank all of you.
We fully understand that many of you are full of sadness and anger and would like to take action on David’s behalf. However, we believe that first and foremost Ugandan civil society must be respected in leading and coordinating events and actions over the coming weeks and months. We also believe that it is crucial that we as Ugandans are able to document the national and international response to David’s brutal murder, which requires your regular communication with us.
WHAT ACTION TO TAKE
- Send letters urging the Government of Uganda (contact information below) to take the following steps:
- Publicly condemn David’s murder;
- Carry out a full and fair investigation into David’s murder;
- Prosecute the perpetrator(s) to the fullest extent of the law;
- Investigate David’s hacked email account in the days preceding his death;
- Assume that, until proven otherwise, David’s death was motivated by homophobia and not routine or arbitrary violence;
- Communicate frequently with LGBT leaders throughout the investigation into David’s murder;
- Ensure that members of Uganda’s LGBT community have adequate protection from violence;
- Take prompt action against all threats or hate speech likely to incite violence, discrimination or hostility toward LGBT Ugandans;
- Eliminate any possibility of consideration or passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
- Contact your own governmental authorities and urge them to communicate these concerns to the Ugandan authorities in direct and private advocacy.
- Continue to expose and denounce U.S conservative evangelicals spreading homophobia in Uganda
- Organize respectful and non-violent vigils at the Ugandan embassy or consulate in your country.
HOW TO TAKE ACTION:
- Inform SMUG of all action you take around David’s murder, so that we can monitor all developments. Send copies of your press releases, statements, audio/video recordings of vigils, pictures, and action plans on this subject to SMUG email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ensure that you do not spread misinformation. A highly political and delicate investigation is underway in a dangerous environment in Uganda, and therefore misinformation could be seriously damaging.
We call for respectful responses towards David Kato’s murder and NOT to use this tragic incident for fund raising campaigns. We thank and encourage everyone who has supported SMUG’s work to continue with us in the fight for LGBT rights.
CONTACT INFORMATION FOR THE UGANDAN GOVERNMENT:
President of The Republic of Uganda H.E Yoweri Museveni
PO Box 7168
Fax: + 256 414 346 102
Salutation: Your Excellency
Inspector General of Police Major Kale Kayihura
PO Box 7055
Fax: + 256 414 255 630
Salutation: Dear Major
Minister of Justice Hon. Makubuya Kiddu
PO Box 7183
Fax: + 256 414 234 453
Salutation: Dear Minister
Frank Mugisha: email@example.com
Val Kalende: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Pepe Julian: mailto:email@example.com
In solidarity together as one
Australia’s SBS Television Focuses on Uganda
September 8th, 2010
Australia’s SBS network, which fills a role similar to that of PBS in the United States, delved into Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill last Sunday in a segment of the documentary program Dateline by Canadian journalist Aaron Lewis. The non-embeddable video is available online at the Dateline web site, along with a full transcript.
This documentary explores similar ground covered in other documentaries on Uganda that have appeared in the U.S. and Britain. Regular readers of BTB are unlikely to learn many new facts, but this documentary does a wonderful job of re-telling the story in different contexts. As with the other documentaries, Lewis obtained interviews with M.P. David Bahati, chief sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo, one of the bill’s most ardent supporters in Uganda’s Cabinet. It also features brief appearances from pastors Martin Ssempa and Solomon Male, who both have been involved with hurling accusations of homosexuality toward rival pastors during last year’s vigilante campaign.
Among the things this documentary covers that we’ve seen before is Bahati’s assertion that many American evangelical leaders privately tell him that they support the Anti-Homosexuality Bill bill:
We have friends who are evangelicals in the US and they are being supportive. Some confidentially supporting this, others, very few openly, in support of this because of the fear to be blamed back home and we truly accept that.
But where this documentary truly excels is in covering the impact the debate over the the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has had on Uganda’s LGBT community. Frank Mugisha, head of Sexual Minorities Uganda, said that since the bill has been introduced, life has become much more difficult:
Many Ugandans have taken the law into their own hands and started attacking homosexuals, beating them up. Landlords have thrown people out of their houses because they are saying “If this legislation is passed and I have a homosexual who is a tenant, then I become a criminal, so it is better I throw you out now before the law is passed”.
Pepe, a transgender advocate for SMUg, agrees:
Kampala is one of the places that is known for mob injustice – anything can happen. You can move on the street and someone can say “Look, the homosexual is doing something” – just that word alone is going to draw attention and something can happen so that we live in fear of all the time.
More compelling is this recounting of a case of “curative rape,” a common threat against lesbians throughout Africa.
SHEILA MUGISHA: At the age of 12 I had a friend at home – and actually these things are done by friends. I had always told him my stories, my secrets, my encounters in bed. So, he would tell me, “You know what? I want to teach you how to play with boys, not with girls.” He put his leg here, and here, and then he got into my body, into my vagina, and I screamed because I’d never had any sex, I’d never known, you know, any of those practices. “So, from now, you are going to learn how to play with boys.”
As a result of the rape, Sheila became pregnant at the age of 12. Her family took her to have the child aborted but the effects of the rape continued.
SHEILA MUGISHA: I went to a certain AIDS information centre in Mengo with a friend – I took a test – and it was positive.
Sheila has been living with HIV for almost twenty years. When the reporter told Minister for Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo about Shiela, the cabinet minister who has been one of the anti-gay bill’s staunchest supporters said that the entire story is a lie:
I have never heard of that, actually. But they lie a lot. Lies. They use that as a major tool because you see that’s the only way they garner sympathy from all over the world. Now the idea that in Uganda we have plans to kill gays you know, that the bill of Honourable Bahati is intended to kill homosexuals – that is the view that the entire world has got, yet it is not the case.
But what has to be the most interesting element of the documentary for me is that for the first time we get to hear from Stanley Nduala, who writes for the notorious tabloid Red Pepper. He has been in the forefront of that tabloid’s outing campaigns. Apparently, making life miserable for LGBT people pays very well in Uganda; we see Nduala driving around Kampala in a late model Mercedes. Incredibly, he claimed that he, too, would fall under the bill’s provisions against “promoting” homosexuality:
STANLEY NDUALA, JOURNALIST ‘RED PEPPER’: For them, they believe that anything you write about homosexuality is promotion. So they think that I’m working with the activists to promote homosexuality in Uganda. So it is quite strict.
Far from promoting homosexuality, ‘The Red Pepper’ goes so far as to out homosexuals in its most popular section. No-one is spared.
FRANK MUGISHA: I know very many people who were outed in that tabloid who lost their jobs, who lost their families, who lost friends. I know people who were even bashed, I know people who were beaten. I know people who were harassed because they were outed in ‘The Red Pepper’.
REPORTER: Do you feel that you are persecuting a minority?
STANLEY NDUALA: I don’t know why they believe like that. We are just being journalists – True journalists.
Stanley tells me that the reason for such interest is that no crime is as hated as homosexuality here.
STANLEY NDUALA: When you commit homosexuality, they think all these other things, like rape, what, are just minor. If you have done that one, you could do everything.
REPORTER: So here in Uganda, being a rapist is minor compared to being a homosexual?
STANLEY NDUALA: Yes, to the public eye
Lawyer Lad Rekefuzi confirms that rapists and murderers fare better in Uganda’s courts than do gay people.
Also making a brief appearance is retired Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, a brave man who I had the distinct pleasure of meeting last May in Southern California. This documentary is a great addition to the body of work being done all over the world to call attention to the deplorable treatment of LGBT people in Uganda.