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Posts for December, 2013

Sexual Minorities Uganda Reacts To Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s Passage

Jim Burroway

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.

Press Contact
Frank Mugisha
Tel: +256 772 616 062
Email: frankmugisha@gmail.com

Pepe Julian Onziema
Tel: +256 772 370 674
Email: onziema@gmail.com

Update: Here’s a link.

Sexual Minorities Uganda Denounces “Anonymous” Hacking Attack

Jim Burroway

August 18th, 2012

Sexual Minorities Uganda has issued this statement denouncing the vandalization of Ugandan governmental web sites by the “hacktivist” group Anonymous:

IT has come to the attention of the office of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and its collaboration of partners that yesterday a Ugandan government website was hacked into and shut down by the activist group that calls itself Anonymous. SMUG and its partners do not condone this action.

No member in our office, network, or in the Ugandan LGBTI community was consulted or involved in this action by “Anonymous” in any way. The hacking of government websites and the corresponding statements by Anonymous do not reflect the views of SMUG and its partners, allies and/or friends. As Ugandans ourselves, we stand with our community and equally share in the burden of this illegal and counterproductive action. In our view, the act opens every Ugandan citizen to the potential of danger and hinders the operations of our sovereign nation. Additionally, it has the unfortunate potential consequence of further targeting the LGBTI community – the very individuals Anonymous claims to be supporting through their action. If a member of Anonymous had contacted any person in this office or in the LGBTI community, they would have learned this from us directly.

Anonymous by nature is an unknown, secretive entity who acts independently against the governments and organizations it opposes. Its members did not reveal themselves to us or provide us with any communication on their proposed actions. Further, as an organization that advocates and practices only peaceful and legal pathways in its effort to ensure that basic human rights are guaranteed to all Ugandan citizens, SMUG and its partners would like to distance and distinguish themselves from the organization that calls itself Anonymous.

Sexual Minorities Uganda does not condone the activities of this group and shares in the dismay, frustration and anger that our fellow citizens have experienced. We are prepared to work with the Ugandan government to ensure that those responsible for this action are found and held accountable.

Ugandan LGBT Activist Vows to Defy Ban

Jim Burroway

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

Jim Burroway

March 14th, 2012

L-R: Unidentified woman, American holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, International Healing Foundation’s Caleb Brundidge, Exodus International boardmember Don Schmierer, Family Life Network (Uganda)’s Stephen Langa, at the time of the March 2009 anti-gay conference in Uganda.

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.”