Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill “a large step backwards for human rights”

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Ugandan displaced refugee gay men
When Ugandan gays like these men, who are protesting for rights in 2011, leave their home country they most often become paperless and trapped without a nation. Most recently new laws in Uganda are challenging human rights for all citizens. Uganda’s Anti-homosexuality Act is only one of these bills that place LGBT human rights in clear danger as LGBTs face life imprisonment only because of their sexual identiy. Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has however yet to sign the bill into full motion. Image: OperaMundi/Afsul

(WNN) New York, New York, UNITED STATES, AMERICAS: In a statement made recently, President of AJWS – American Jewish World Service Ruth Messinger spoke clearly in opposition to Uganda’s new Anti-homosexuality Bill, known by many activists around the world as the ‘Kill-the-Gays’ bill. Although the Ugandan Parliament did not place the death sentence on LGBTs in the country with the Anti-homosexuality Act, the bill does require life in prison for those charged with ‘homosexuality’. Urging Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to reject signing the bill after it’s December passage Ruth Messinger said:

“Today [December 20, 2013] is a tragic day for human rights in Uganda. The passage of the inhumane anti-homosexuality bill by the Ugandan parliament is in conflict with Uganda’s constitution and is a major step backwards for human rights in Uganda, presenting a grave threat to civil society and public health.

With tremendous respect for his office and for the Ugandan constitution, we urge President Museveni to reject this discriminatory bill. We also urge President Obama and the U.S. government to do all they can to ensure that this bill does not become the law of the land in Uganda.

Finally, the passage of this bill appears to be one of a growing number of pieces of legislation, which violate the country’s constitution and threaten human rights in Uganda.

We stand with all Ugandans who seek equal treatment under the Ugandan constitution and in keeping with human rights.”

The AJWS is not alone in their criticism of the legislation. The United Nations has also jumped to outline that the bill is an act of clear denial of human rights for a sector of Uganda’s population.

“We call on the President of Uganda to protect human rights and to refrain from signing this bill into law,” said Ms. Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN OHCHR – Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Describing, according the AJWS, the bill’s “many cruel and unconscionable provisions” the maximum penalty for ‘repeated homosexual behavior’ will not include the death penalty, but can include life imprisonment. As a strong punitive law the bill also criminalizes those who the government perceives who are in support of LGBT rights. This includes sanctions on individuals as well as funding organizations that offer humanitarian programs that also serve sexual minorities.

This law could work to reduce the local and global humanitarian work in Uganda for those suffering from HIV/AIDS outlines the United Nations, since the LGBT community is also part of current healthcare programs, along with heterosexuals in Uganda, who are suffering from the disease.

Amazingly the law also places serious punitive charges against those who are ‘just aware’ of someone in their community who is LGBT. Those who are aware of someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered but does not choose to report them to Ugandan authorities will also be subject to charges that can lead to imprisonment, outlines the bill.

“As parliament debated it, gay activists met in a suburb of the capital Kampala to work out their own plan. They say their lives are often in threat here because of intolerance,” reported BBC News correspondent on-the-ground in Kampala,

“The challenge is enforcement. Authorities need to be able to gather evidence that shows someone has engaged in homosexuality. This is hard to prove and one of the reasons Uganda’s current anti-gay legislation has been rarely enforced. But once enacted the bill might give law enforcers extra motivation to tackle “homosexual crimes”. This could lead to more arrests and intrusive medical exams,” continues Byaruhanga.

The final passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill comes as one of as string of new laws in Uganda that activists say works to greatly limit human rights. The recent December 19, 2013 passage of Uganda’s 2011 Anti-pornography Act places restrictions on a women’s dress in public, including anything that might show part of a woman’s body that may cause some form of arousal in males.

In September 12, 2013 Uganda also passed another public prohibitory law, The Public Order Management Act which activists say will cause increasing and unfair restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom for Ugandan citizens to assemble.

“The current trend in Uganda of passing laws that are unconstitutional and against human rights is worrying,” said Adrian Jjuuko, executive director of AJWS’ Ugandan grantee Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum.

“As human rights activists, we strongly condemn the ongoing trend and fear for the future of human rights in this country,” added Jjuuko.

AJWS is the 8th largest U.S. based funder for organizations and programs that uphold and encourage LGBT rights. Their focus supports social justice organizations that promote equality and work to end discrimination and violence against people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, so that “they can access the full spectrum of opportunities in society and live in health, safety and dignity.”

Ugandan President Museveni recently conveyed that he is going to take his time before he signs the bill.

“The Government has a legal obligation to prevent discrimination and cannot withhold basic rights from certain individuals because the majority disapproves of them,” added UN spokesperson Ms. Shamdasani.

“All people, including LGBT individuals, have the same human rights and are entitled to full protection by the State,” she continued.

Currently 70 plus countries around the globe continue to criminalize, punish or place legal limits on homosexuality for all those living inside their borders.


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