7 December 2012

Uganda: 'Anti-Homosexuality' Bill Must Be Unconditionally Rejected

press release

FIDH is extremely concerned by the speeding up of the voting process of the "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" before Ugandan Parliament, as Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga recently promised that the draconian BiIl would pass by Year's end as a "Christmas gift" to its backers.

The "Anti-Homosexuality Bill", aimed at putting into the national penal code provisions that further criminalise the "offense of homosexuality", was first introduced before Ugandan Parliament in October 2009. At the time, strong mobilisation of civil society organisations as well as international governments and institutions enabled to halt the debate and set the bill aside for more than two years. In February 2012, it was reintroduced before Ugandan Parliament in its original version. With Ms. Kadaga's recent declarations, the threat of its quick adoption is weighing more than ever over all Ugandan lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people as well as on human rights organisations, and in particular those working for the protection of LGBTI persons' rights.

"If adopted by the Ugandan Parliament, this Bill will not only further entrench discrimination and inequality before law, but it will also be a sword of Damocles more dangling over all Ugandan LGBTI citizens' head as well as over their relatives, friends and more generally those defending their rights. It has to be rejected unconditionally", said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

Although lack of transparency surrounds the Bill's current content, information gathered by FIDH clearly suggest that no substantial changes have been made to the 2009 text. In the original version, the Bill contained a series of severe provisions. The one which remains of utmost concern is that providing death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality", in case of "same sex sexual acts" with someone under 18 or with "a person with disability", of repeated conviction, or if the "offender is a person living with HIV". [1] Besides, this bill is putting at high risk civil society activists as well as doctors working with LGBTI persons on HIV and in the field of sexual health, and even parents and teachers, as complicity with or failing to "report" those who are, or believed to be LGBTI are severely sanctioned. This Bill further shocks by its extraterritorial jurisdiction provision making any Ugandan citizen living abroad likely to be charged and extradited.

Our organisation recalls that, in addition of the Constitution (Amendment) Act of 2005 explicitly prohibiting "marriage between persons of the same sex", homosexuality is already severely criminalized in the Ugandan Penal Code (Penal Code Act Chap 120 and Penal Code Amendment - Gender References - Act, 2000), which, among other sanctions, provides up to life sentence for anyone convicted for "carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature". The "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" would then significantly broaden this criminalization and contribute to increasing the arbitrary arrests and detentions, physical and psychological violence by state and non-state actors, marginalisation and discrimination of all kinds already suffered by LGBTI individuals in Uganda. David Kato, LGBTI human rights defender, was murdered last year after his name and photos were published with threats in the media.

"This bill and the debate surrounding its reintroduction before Parliament are symptomatic of the more general hindrances to civil and political rights prevailing in Uganda. In a State of Law, authorities are expected to guarantee and protect the rights of citizens, not to persecute and discriminate them. If passed, this bill will seriously jeopardize fundamental freedoms and represent a setback for our country" denounced Sidiki Kaba, FIDH Honorary President.

FIDH considers that the existing laws and the proposed Bill seriously contravene to Uganda's national and international human rights commitments and obligations, in particular with regard to the national Constitution - which provides for equality and freedom from discrimination -, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

Our organization calls on Ugandan authorities to reject this bill unconditionally, immediately cease homophobic statements, and condemn stigmatisation and hate campaigns openly relayed by some media.

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