Anti-homosexuality Bill impacts on human rights defenders

2 April 2014

Kampala – The Anti-Homosexuality Act signed last February by the President of Uganda Museveni not only prohibits same sex sexual acts; it also creates the offence of “promotion of homosexuality” and “aiding and abating homosexuality” thus criminalizing persons who defend the rights of and provide basic services such as health services to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and other gender diverse people (LGBTI) in Uganda. Godwin Mindrea Buwa, ASF Programme Coordinator in the ASF mission in Kampala, outlines how this piece of legislation threatens the work of lawyers and human rights defenders (HRDs) in Uganda.

Question: What are the risks for HRDs to work on the rights of LGBTI after the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act?

Godwin Mindrea Buwa: They can be considered by law as promoting homosexuality or even aiding and abating homosexuality – which is now a crime – and as such be criminalized. They are subject to prosecution and imprisonment if found guilty. HRD organizations working on rights of sexual minorities risk being closed down.While other countries in Africa such as Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya also have legislation against same sex sexual acts, the scope of the Ugandan law goes far beyond  by criminalizing any form of promotion and aid for LGBTI. This includes doctors and anyone providing them medical services and other professional services such as counseling.

Q.: How do you explain the extended scope of the Bill?

G.B.: Uganda’s experience is a bit peculiar and I think rather isolated. The passing of this law has been influenced mostly by Evangelical and Pentecostal churches and the politicians took it up for political capital and cheap popularity. There is a high church generated homophobia in Uganda today and by passing this law, the President is seeking to identify himself with the majority and that gives him a political capital for his presidential bid in 2016.

Q.: Will the enforcement of the Law impact on the rights of the LGBTI?

G.B.: Absolutely. Sexual minorities will see their rights in terms of access to education, jobs, shelter, congregative worship, socialization and medical care for instance being curtailed due to discrimination and institutionalized homophobia. Equally, their right to access justice will be fundamentally obstructed.

Q.: Is ASF planning to take action on the matter?

G.B.: The Bill clearly violates basic rights and freedoms of sexual minorities, such as the right to privacy, protection from discrimination, and the right to human dignity. Some Ugandan organizations have already filed two petitions to the Constitutional Court. If we decide to take action, it will be in alignment with existing efforts of coalitions on human rights and constitutional law and/or HRDs. We believe that it will strengthen their voice by supporting one/both of the coalition’s efforts.

Cover picture: The Anti-Homosexuality Act signed by Uganda President Museveni is the subject of national and international reactions © ASF 

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