On Tuesday 7th February 2012, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (2009) was reintroduced to the Parliament of Uganda. If passed, this draft legislation would violate the human rights of all Ugandans, and should immediately be dropped, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP), Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), The Human Rights Centre Uganda (HRCU), and Human Rights Network-Uganda (HURINET) said today.
Hon. David Bahati’s widely condemned private member’s bill is one of ten bills saved and reintroduced from the previous Parliament. The bill had its first reading on 7th February 2012 and was referred to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee for scrutiny. It is understood that the bill was re-tabled in its original form but that amendments recommended by the Committee last year will be incorporated. Although Hon. Bahati is reported in the media to have said that the death penalty for ‘serial’ acts of homosexuality will be dropped, this is not yet confirmed. EHAHRDP, FHRI, HRCU and HURINET express their concern at the lack of clarity surrounding the parliamentary process and contents of the bill, and call on Parliament to clarify on this matter.
EHAHRDP, FHRI, HRCU and HURINET recall the submission by the Uganda Human Rights Commission in its 2010 annual report that “some of the provisions in the bill are unnecessary, and that most of them violate international human rights standards.” The rejection of certain international standards envisaged in the 2009 bill sets a dangerous precedent regarding Uganda’s respect for the human rights commitments it has made.
The bill contains harsh provisions which would seriously restrict the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly and would threaten the ability of some human rights organisations to continue operating. Already, on 14th February the Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity, Hon. Rev. Fr. Lokodo Simon, ordered the unconstitutional shutdown of a capacity-building workshop organized by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) human rights defenders in Entebbe. The bill and such actions by government representatives reinforce the more general threats to civil society space in Uganda, such as the onerous regulation of public meetings and discussions sought to be introduced with the Public Order Management Bill.
As well as threatening the safety of LGBTI people generally, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill also jeopardizes the security of human rights defenders working on these issues. The re-tabling of the bill just days after the first anniversary of the murder of LGBTI activist and EHAHRDP founding member, David Kato, is a stark reminder of the insecurity this bill has already caused in Uganda.
More generally, the bill would have a wide-reaching and disturbing effect on the freedoms of the majority of Ugandans. If health professionals, spiritual leaders, teachers, business people, landlords, and many others in positions built upon trust and confidentiality fail to disclose to the authorities persons they suspect of being homosexual, under the provisions of this bill would also be targeted for prosecution themselves.
EHAHRDP, FHRI, HRCU and HURINET welcome the statement issued by the Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity on Wednesday 8th February that the bill “does not enjoy the support of the Prime Minister or the Cabinet.” We call on the authorities to ensure the physical safety of LGBTI community members and human rights activists and fulfill the commitment made by Uganda during the Universal Periodic Review in October 2011 to “take immediate concrete steps to stop discrimination and assaults against LGBT persons.”
EHAHRDP, FHRI, HRCU and HURINET call on the Members of Parliament, and all Ugandans, to reject this discriminatory and divisive bill and refuse to be distracted from the real pressing issues facing the country at this time, such as the debate over the exploitation of Uganda’s oil resources.
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