Uganda: Anti-Homosexuality or Anti-Human Rights Bill?

Published on Jan 11, 2010

The Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law in Uganda speaks out against the draconian Anti-gay Bill in the Ugandan Parliament.  Astraea stands with our grantee and civil society partners in our deepest objection to the bill.  Astraea recognizes this bill as a crucial human rights issue and supports Ugandan-led solutions to defend civil society, honor democracy, and celebrate diversity.

Uganda- Kampala

Below is the text of the Ugandan Civil Society Coalition’s press release that details the impact such a bill would have.

More information about the U.S. religious fundementalists that are behind this bill and similar efforts in Uganda and beyond can be found at Political Research Associates’ groundbreaking report Globalizing the Culture Wars.

Anti-Homosexuality or Anti-Human Rights Bill?

Statement from the

Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law

Hon. Bahati’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill which was tabled in Parliament on October 14,
2009, and is currently before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of
Parliament covers much more than the title alone proclaims. A much better title for this
bill would have been the ‘Anti Civil Society Bill, the ‘Anti Public Health Bill,’ or the
‘Anti-Constitution Bill.’ Perhaps more simply it should be called the Anti Human
Rights Bill.
As a matter of fact, this bill represents one of the most serious attacks to date
on the 1995 Constitution and on the key human rights protections enshrined in the
Constitution including:

  • Article 20: Fundamental rights and freedoms are inherent and not granted by the State
  • Article 21: Right to Equality and Freedom from discrimination
  • Article 22: The Right to Life (the death penalty provisions)
  • Article 27: The Right to Privacy
  • Article 29: Right to freedom of conscience, expression, movement, religion, assembly and association (this includes freedom of speech, Academic freedom and media freedom)
  • Article 30: Right to Education
  • Article 32: Affirmative Action in favour of marginalised groups and
  • Article 36 on the Rights of Minorities

Let us think for a moment of who—quite apart from the homosexuals it claims as its
target—this bill puts at risk:

  • any parent who does not denounce their lesbian daughter or gay son to the authorities: Failure to do so s/he will be fined Ush 5,000,000/= or put away for three years;
  • any teacher who does not report a lesbian or gay pupil to the authorities within 24 hours: Failure to do so s/he will be fined Ush 5,000,000/= or put away for three years in prison;
  • any landlord who happens to give housing to a suspected homosexual risks seven years of imprisonment;
  • any Local Council I – V Chairperson or Executive member who does not denounce somebody accused of same-sex attraction or activity risks imprisonment or a heavy fine;
  • any medical doctor who seeks to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS through working with what are known as most at risk populations, risks his career;
  • all civil society leaders, whether in a Community Based Organisation, NGO, or academic institution; if their organisations seek to have a comprehensive position on sexual and reproductive health, they risk seeing their organisations closed down;
  • any human rights activist who seeks to promote an understanding of the indivisibility and inalienability of human rights would be judged to be promoting homosexuals and homosexuality, and be punished accordingly;
  • any religious leader who seeks to provide guidance and counselling to people who are unsure of their sexuality, would be regarded as promoting homosexuality and punished accordingly;
  • any Member of Parliament or other public figure who is sent a pornographic article, picture or video will become vulnerable to blackmail and witch-hunts;
  • any media house that publishes ‘pornographic’ materials risks losing its certificate of registration and the editor will be liable to seven years in jail;
  • any internet café operator who fails to prevent a customer from accessing a pornographic website, or a dating site, could be accused of ‘participating in the production, procuring, marketing, broadcasting, disseminating and publishing of pornographic materials for purposes of promoting homosexuality’; their business licence could be revoked and they themselves could land in prison.
  • any Person alleged to be a homosexual is at risk of LIFE IMPRISONMENT and, in some circumstances, the DEATH PENALTY

In short, this bill targets everybody, and involves everybody: it cannot be implemented
without making every citizen spy on his or her neighbours. The last time this was done
was in the Amin era, where everyone very quickly became an ‘enemy of the state’. It
amounts to a direct invasion of our homes, and will promote blackmail, false accusations
and outright intimidation of certain members of the population. Do Ugandans really want
to mimic the practices of the Khartoum regime? Have we already forgotten the sex
police of Apartheid South Africa, who smashed their way into people’s bedrooms in an
attempt to prevent inter-racial sex?

As Civil Society organisations we condemn all predatory sexual acts (hetero or
homosexual) that violate the rights of vulnerable sections of our society such as minors
and people with disabilities. However, by lumping “aggravated homosexuality” with
sexual acts between consenting adults, the Bill whips up sentiments of fear and hatred
aimed at isolating sexual minorities. By so doing, the state fails in its duty to protect all
its citizens without discrimination.

The bill also asserts Extra Territorial jurisdiction. In other words, all of the offences
covered by the bill can be applied to a Ugandan citizen or permanent resident who
allegedly commits them outside the country.
Thus homosexuality and/or its ‘promotion’
are added to the very short list of offences which fall in the ‘political offences’ category.
It joins treason, misprision of treason, and terrorism as offences subject to extra-territorial
jurisdiction. Clearly, this is out of all proportion in relation to the gravity of the act.
On top of these day-to-day considerations about everybody’s safety and security, let us
consider what this bill will do for civil society organisations in Uganda which seek to
have a critical voice and to engage in issues of global concern. One of the objectives of
the bill is to prohibit the licensing of organizations which allegedly ‘promote
homosexuality.’ Thus, for example, any organisation which talked about anal sex as part
of a campaign of HIV prevention can be affected. Had this bill been in place earlier this
year, no Ugandan could have participated in the World AIDS meeting held in Mexico to
discuss HIV prevention.

And what about our standing in the eyes of the world? The Bill calls for Uganda to
nullify any international treaties, protocols, declarations and conventions which are
believed to be ‘contradictory to the spirit and provisions’ of the bill. In reality, this would
involve Uganda withdrawing from:

• The Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
• The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its protocols;
• The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
• The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women;
• The Convention on the Rights of the Child, and
• The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights

We note that Uganda is current Chair of the UN Security Council which operates with the
UN Charter and UDHR as guiding principles. It is also current Chair of the
Commonwealth and a signatory to the African Union’s Constitutive Act which has as its
premise the promotion and respect of human rights. In 2009 and 2010 it is hosting AU
Summits. What will happen to Uganda’s hard-won role on the global stage if it nullifies
its international and regional human rights commitments? Uganda cannot wish away core
human rights principles of dignity, equality and non-discrimination, and all Ugandans
will pay a heavy price if this bill is enacted. We will have bargained away our hardearned
rights and freedoms as well as our right to challenge the State and hold it
accountable for the protection of these rights.

In sum, the Bahati Bill is profoundly unconstitutional. It is a major stumbling block to
the development of a vibrant human rights movement in Uganda, and a serious threat to
Uganda’s developing democratic status. If passed, this law would not only prove
difficult to implement, it would also consume resources and attention which would be
better directed at more pressing issues of human rights abuse, corruption, electoral
reform, domestic relations and freedom of the press.

Regardless of our personal moral beliefs and values, we the undersigned are standing up in defense of Democracy, our Constitution and its enshrined principles of human dignity, equality, freedom and justice for all.

Kampala, 22 October 2009