The Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) is gravely concerned about reports that an Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda may be passed by that country’s Parliament in the next week. AWID stands in solidarity with the Ugandan LGBT community and all those who continue to fight against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and we urge the government of Uganda to take positive action in rejecting the Bill and upholding human rights for all.
The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of the Ugandan Parliament held public hearings on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill on 6 and 9 May 2011. The Committee is now finalizing its report on the Bill, and it is very possible that it could be passed by the Parliament before 18 May 2011, as they complete their parliamentary business by that date. Once the Bill is passed, president Yoweri Museveni must sign it in order for it to become law.
As explained by different international human rights and LGBT rights organizations, the Bill would further authorize discrimination against those who are, or who are believed to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender and reaffirms existing penalties for consensual same-sex relationships, criminalizing the “promotion of homosexuality” and punishing those who do not report violations of the bill’s provisions within 24 hours. The Parliamentary Committee itself has said that the provisions of the Bill are redundant and unnecessary. Most controversially, the Bill would punish “aggravated homosexuality” – including activity by “serial offenders” or those who are HIV positive – with the death penalty. The bill would also seriously undermine the work of human rights defenders in Uganda, putting some of them at risk.
The Bill not only violates multiple protections guaranteed by the Constitution of Uganda, but also contravenes the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and other international human rights treaties to which Uganda is a party. The Bill also seriously contradicts the strong call made in a Joint Statement to the UN Human Rights Council last March, signed by 84 member States (including Nigeria, the Central African Republic, South Africa and Rwanda), which called for States to take steps to end acts of violence, criminal sanctions and related human rights violations against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
National dialogue and understanding of homosexuality in Uganda is widely known to being strongly influenced by Christian Evangelicals from the United States, some of whom visited the country and took part in an anti-homosexuality conference that immediately preceded the filing of the anti-homosexuality bill in the parliament in 2009. David Kato, the LGBT rights activist whose extra-judicial killing caused worldwide public outcry was one of the main advocates campaigning against the bill, and had received numerous death threats for his activism.
AWID’s research on religious fundamentalisms clearly demonstrates that across regions and religions, sexual orientation and identity are lightning rods for fundamentalist forces. Like in the case of Uganda, those who step outside rigid norms as defined by fundamentalists, are seen as threatening the social fabric, notions of ‘morality’ and the ‘family’- discourses that are often deployed by these actors to harness power. Specifically in the case of Uganda some religious pastors and public servants are spreading the hateful notion that lesbians and gays are corrupting children contributing to worsening the climate of fear, intimidation and violence already faced by this population, and legitimizing the violation of their human rights.
Aggravating this situation are concerns that the issue of homosexuality is being used to distract attention from the climate of increasing repression in Uganda. In the last month, civil society actions to protest the rise in fuel prices and the cost of living have been met with excessive use of force by security forces, including the use of firearms against crowds, killing at least ten people and injuring dozens more.
AWID stands in solidarity with the women and men of Uganda who are fighting for human rights and justice. We believe that full respect for sexual rights is part of guaranteeing human rights for all, and we therefore call upon the government of Uganda not to pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in the current or amended form. Additionally, we call of the government of Uganda to take measures to stop the attacks on its citizens who are peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
For more information and to take action:
Read the statement by the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law – Uganda on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009, submitted to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Uganda’s parliament on 9th May 2011
Read an analysis of the Bill by the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law – Uganda
Read the press release by International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission on the Bill
Sign the petition by All-Out demanding that Ugandan President Museveni stop the human rights violations by publicly vowing to veto the bill