Check dis story of transformative justice: re/blogged from Behind The Mask

Uganda’s Justice Minister Kahinda Otafiire has said he has no problem with two consenting adults “being in a same sex relationship.

Otafiire, whose docket also includes Constitutional Affairs, said enforcing the infamous Anti Homosexuality Bill, which seeks the death penalty for gays, would be difficult.

The minister said he wondered how police would adduce evidence to get a conviction.

Otafiire told a meeting of Human Rights Defenders in Kampala on Thursday February 16 that while he “does not like gays, and gays do not like me, we can co-exist.”

The government owned New Vision newspaper reported that the minister said gays can coexist [with heterosexuals] but discouraged “marketing” and “seducing children into their ranks.”

It is not clear if Otafiire was giving his personal opinion on the bill, or whether he was speaking in his capacity as Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister. His comments come a few days after Simon

Lokodo, the Ethics and Integrity Minister forcefully closed a meeting of gay activists in Entebbe.

Uganda’s Cabinet Ministers continue making conflicting statements on the bill.

Information and National Guidance minister, Mary Karooro Okurut, the official government spokesperson told Behind the Mask recently that the “kill the gays bill” would not be re-tabled in Parliament, but two days later, the bill’s architect, David Bahati re-tabled his controversial lapsed bill for consideration in parliament.

Gay activists in Uganda, [na bredrin and sistren throughout Afrika en de diaspora] are closely following the developments.

[pamoja tunafika! deeply grateful for all the hard work, sacrifices & commitment to love of frontline activists/walimu/warriors/en kuchus on the ground…]

Advertisements

URGENT CALL TO ACTION: 

 STOP THECALL MINISTRIES FROM FUELING HOMOPHOBIA IN UGANDA THROUGH THEIR MAY 2, 2010, CRUSADE 

 Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) condemns Lou Engle’s upcoming crusade scheduled for May 2, 2010.  The crusade could cause incalculable damage, as it is designed to label homosexuality as a “vice” in Uganda and to incite people to “fight” against this “vice” in society.  In the context of an already inflamed extremist religious movement against homosexuality in Uganda sparked off by American evangelicals, the inflammatory preaching of Lou Engle and his associates is likely to incite further violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people in Uganda.

 Sexual Minorities Uganda calls on all human rights defenders, organizations, religious communities and leaders, governments, and civil society, globally to take action to ensure that Lou Engle and his associates do not set foot in Uganda and that the Call Uganda does not proceed with this inflammatory and hate-inducing plan.  While Sexual Minorities Uganda supports freedom of worship, we recognize the need for restriction on any speech that incites hatred and violence against a minority group.  If a prayer event is to be held in Uganda, it should be done in a manner which encourages Christ-like love and acceptance and does not incite hatred and violence toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people.

 Background

 Lou Engle’s extremist and violence-laden preaching is often laced with references to gay people as being possessed by demons.  During a rally for Proposition 8 in California, he called for Christian martyrs.  His inflammatory speech and focus on martyrdom can easily incite people in Uganda to disregard people’s human rights and go to extreme measures to eliminate whatever they characterize as “evil” or a “vice”.  For example, Lou Engle preaches, “The most ‘dangerous terrorist’ is not Islam but God. One of God’s names is the avenger of blood. Have you worshiped that God yet?”

 The crusade is organized by TheCall Uganda and ten Ugandan Pentecostal pastors. According to http://www.thecalluganda.com, the crusade is ‘intended to awaken and revive the young and the old, men and women, church and family, government and the public to fight vices eating away our society’. TheCall intends to address homosexuality in Uganda as a what they label a “vice”.  The crusade is preceded by a 21 day fast. 

 Lou Engle is a core founder of TheCALL in the U.S. but has expanded chapters to different countries.  Last year, TheCALL sent an American Evangelical, JoAnna Watson of Touching Hearts International, to be based in Uganda full-time to orchestrate this crusade to fight vices like homosexuality.

 This crusade could have the same kind of impact that the March 2009 anti-gay conference had in Uganda. Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge and Don Schmierer reinforced the desire of some religious leaders to persuade the government to create laws which would eliminate homosexuality from the nation. Eventually, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced in the Parliament of Uganda by MP’s David Bahati and Benson Obua.

 Lou Engle’s crusade will be the second major American evangelist event with an anti-homosexuality agenda after the trio to set foot in Uganda and will definitely incite our people into more hatred of homosexuals that may lead to further violence. This is very evident with the nature of preaching that he does in the US. He claims that homosexuals have demons and has mobilized Americans on several occasions for anti –gay rallies. Since the Bill was tabled, the rate of violence and homophobia has increased drastically in Uganda. Lou Engle’s inflammatory preaching is likely to exacerbate an already worrying situation.

Actions:

  • Call and/or write Letters of Protest to TheCall Ministries and ask them stop exporting homophobia to Uganda. The event they are organizing is dangerous to LGBTI people in Uganda.

      Contact:

JoAnna Watson, Coordinator of The Call Uganda

Email: Joannawatsonthint@yahoo.com

Phone: +256 779 864 985

Lou Engle

Email: response@thecall.com

Phone: +1 816 285 9351

 Hold demonstrations and/or marches in Kansas City where Lou Engle’s church is located and protest against TheCALL Uganda

ASK LOU ENGLE AND THECALL MINISTRY TO:

    1. STOP THECALL UGANDA CRUSADE IN THE FORM THAT IT IS PLANNED
    2. PROMOTE RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS RATHER THAN INCITING VIOLENCE
    3. STOP EXPORTING HOMOPHOBIA TO AFRICA

 

For further information, contact;

Valentine Kalende

Email: kalendenator@gmail.com

Tel: +256752324249

 

Frank Mugisha

Email:frankmugisha@gmail.com

Tel:+256772616062

Media Statement

1 March 2010

Uganda: last chance to shelve Anti-Homosexuality Bill should not be missed, warn UN human rights experts

GENEVA – With its third and final reading imminent before the Ugandan Parliament, two UN Special Rapporteurs* voiced their deep concerns about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which, if adopted, would have an extremely damaging impact on the important and legitimate work of human rights defenders in the country, and would curtail fundamental freedoms.

“The Bill would not only violate the fundamental rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ugandan people,” stressed Margaret Sekaggya and Frank La Rue, “but would also criminalize the legitimate activities of men and women, as well as national and international organizations, who strive for the respect for equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”

 According to the Bill, in addition to a fine, the offender would face imprisonment of at least five years, and in the case of a non-governmental organization, the cancelling of its certificate of registration and criminal liability for its director.

 “The Bill would further unjustifiably obstruct the exercise of the right to freedoms of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly, and association, by prohibiting the publication and dissemination of materials on homosexuality, as well as funding and sponsoring related activities,” the Special Rapporteurs said.

The experts welcomed “the recent attempts made by President Museveni and other members of the Government to prevent the Bill from becoming law, and call on them to redouble their efforts at this crucial time.”

“We urge Parliamentarians to refrain from adopting this draconian Bill,” said the independent experts echoing previous statements made by the UN human rights chief, Navi Pillay, and the UN Special Rapporteur on health, Anand Grover.

“Adopting the Bill would be in clear breach of international human rights norms and standards contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,” warned Ms. Sekaggya and Mr. La Rue.

“The passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill,” they noted, “would also gravely tarnish the image of Uganda on the regional and international scenes.”

(*) Ms. Margaret Sekaggya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and Mr. Frank La Rue, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

ENDS

For more information on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, please visit:
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/defenders/index.htm
 
For more information on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, please visit:
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/opinion/index.htm

For more information or interviews, please contact: Mr Guillaume Pfeifflé (Tel: +41 22 917 9384 / email: gpfeiffle@ohchr.org). 

To see the Media Statement as published on the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, visit:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/Media.aspx?IsMediaPage=true

b is for baganda (oral) stories

 

TGIF!

(New York, December 11)

A United Nations General Assembly panel that met this week broke new ground and helped build new momentum for ending human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, a coalition of sponsoring nongovernmental organizations said today.

The meeting included discussion of discriminatory and draconian “anti-homosexuality legislation” currently before the Ugandan parliament, and of the role of American religious groups in promoting that bill and homophobia across Africa. In a groundbreaking move, a representative of the Holy See in the audience read a statement strongly condemning the criminalization of homosexual conduct.

The panel, held yesterday on the 61st anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, featured speakers from Honduras, India, the Philippines, and Zambia, as well as Uganda, where the proposed “anti-homosexuality law” shows the steady threat of government repression.

Sweden organized the panel in coalition with Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, France, the Netherlands, and Norway. It was sponsored by a group of six nongovernmental organizations that defend the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. The audience of 200 people included delegates from over 50 nations.

The statement from the Holy See said it “opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including discriminatory penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person. … [T]he murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State.”

Ugandan lawmakers are currently debating the “anti-homosexuality bill.” While there were reports that the death penalty provisions might be stripped from the bill, other punishments would remain that would drive many Ugandans underground or out of the country, participants said.

Speaking on the panel, Victor Mukasa, cofounder of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and program associate for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLRHC), described how he was forced to leave Uganda following police brutality and raids on his home. He said that Uganda’s “anti-homosexuality bill” reflects a pattern of state-sponsored homophobia spreading across the African continent.

“Lack of security, arbitrary arrests and detentions, violence, and killings of LGBT people have become the order of the day in Africa,” said Mukasa. “Nothing can change as long as LGBT people live in fear for their safety when they claim their basic human rights.”
Also at the panel discussion, the Reverend Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican priest from Zambia who is project director for Political Research Associates (PRA) in Massachusetts, presented the group’s new report, “Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia.”

Kaoma said that many anti-LGBT attitudes across Africa are fueled by US groups actively exporting homophobia. He called on US religious figures who have been promoting hatred and fear of homosexuality in Africa to denounce the Uganda bill unequivocally and support the human rights of all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Citing their moral responsibility to prevent violence, he also urged them to make such declarations in Africa, not just before US audiences.

Other panelists highlighted governments’ complicity in prejudice and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Indyra Mendoza Aguilar, coordinator of the Lésbica Feminista Cattrachas network in Honduras said that an atmosphere of impunity since the June coup in Honduras has meant spreading violence against already marginalized people.

“In Honduras, as in many countries, the state turns a blind eye to violence against our communities,” said Mendoza Aguilar. “Today we issue a call for reforming our societies, free of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and free of impunity.”
Vivek Divan, an Indian attorney and member of the team that led a successful legal challenge to India’s colonial-era sodomy law, described the provision’s insidious effects: promoting inequality, excusing violence, and permitting state intrusion into private lives.

The Delhi High Court overturned the law this year in a landmark decision affirming diversity as a core value of the Indian state.
Speakers also stressed how torture, killings, and other grave abuses target people not just because of their sexuality, but because they look, dress, or act in ways that defy deeply rooted patriarchal norms for expressing masculinity and femininity.

“Now is the time to realize that diversity does not diminish our humanity,” said Sass Sasot, cofounder of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP). “You want to be born, to live, and die with dignity – so do we! You want to live with authenticity – so do we!”

Contacts:
For the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, in New York,
Sara Perle (English, Italian): +1-212-430-6015, sperle@iglhrc.org

For Human Rights Watch, in New York,
Scott Long (English): +1-212-216-1297; or +1-646-641-5655 (mobile)

For Global Advocates for Trans Equality, in New York,
Justus Eisfeld (English, Dutch): +1-646-341-1699, justus.eisfeld@globaltransadvocates.org

For COC Netherlands, in Amsterdam,
Björn van Roozendaal(English, Dutch): +31-619-123-2257 (mobile)

For Arc International, in Geneva,
John Fisher (English, French, Spanish): +41-22-733-4705

so this technically won’t be the last post in this series of 16 days of activism against gender violence, which is the bigger point of reposting all these alerts….

activism doesn’t lie within any particular sector, like ‘civil’ society, and isn’t publicised just in december.

Like Black History month and International Women’s day…the symbolism is powerful, but just a small part of a bigger, everyday struggle of all peoples to change (hopefully for the betta) & liberate themselves…..

today I’mma dedicate this space to sheroes that inspire me.

it’s about 2 women in particular.

Pouline Kimani & Sylvia Tamale.

they are symbolic of many many wom(b)en who have been significant in my growth and survival.

like the 1 woman who stepped out of her comfort zone to loan me money for the ticket that got me to tdot in the summer. marta jimenez.

and the women that reach/ed out, in Tdot, to mobilise the necessary resources to support queer/trans communities in East Afrika. Notisha Massaquoi. Allison Duke. Amai Kuda. Judith. Teo.Verlia. Omisoore. Aje. Roberta. Mercedes.Gie. Jamilah. Ayo. Francesca.Toki San. Debs. Rehanna. Wangui.Brandy………there are many more SISTAS in  SOLIDARITY….don’t want to exclude the brothers….allies like MindBender & Wassun, teach me that we can expect for straight/afrikans to take responsibility for bridging the gaps between our communities

but I digress…today the point is symbolising our efforts to defend & promote human rights with just 2 examples.

who is pouline? in her own werds, she is a young, black, queer, liberal feminist.

in my own werds, she is a soul/dada/comrade/teacher,

a soldier of love….

according to FIDH,  she works for them on “AFRICA FOR WOMEN’S RIGHTS”
a campaign launched by regional and international human rights and women’s rights organisations present throughout Africa. The campaign’s aim is to call on African states to RATIFY international and regional women’s human rights protection instruments and to RESPECT them in law and practice. 

It’s timely that Pouline Kimani  received the Oustanding Lives Award this week.

A powerful symbol of all the possibilities there are in building solidarity across space & communities……

How appropriate that the city/country I chose to reside in, recognised the dedication & sacrifices of one of the activists at the forefront of the LGBTTIQQ  movement in East Afrika.

and what about sylvia tamale?

Dr Tamale is a human rights defender and activist, academic, writer and grassroots mobiliser who has influenced critical thinking at national and international levels. She is one of Africa’s leading feminist scholars. Her book ‘When hens Begin To Crow; Gender and Parliamentary Politics in Uganda’ published in 1999 has been recognised internationally as a landmark piece. Her keen and sharp analysis, puts her at the cutting edge of human rights discourse.. In July 2003, Dr Tamale was awarded the University of Minnesota Distinguished Leadership award for Internationals.

blogger’s note: this is an excerpt from the article “honouring sylvia tamale” in pambazuka news from 5 years ago, she was recognised as an outstanding contributor to advancement of women’s rights…during another series for 16 days of activism against gender violence.

I thought I’d share a speech she delivered last month….

finish this off with another illustration of allies & working on our own unity first.

 

A HUMAN RIGHTS IMPACT ASSESSMENT OF THE ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY BILL

[Public Dialogue November 18, 2009, Makerere University]

 

I would like to thank the Human Rights and Peace Centre for inviting me here this afternoon to share my views on this bill.  It is great that HURIPEC organized this to be a dialogue and not a debate because debates have a tendency to polarize and divide along irrational gut-level responses.  A dialogue, on the other hand, usefully sets the stage for people to listen to each other with understanding, tolerance and helps build bridges.  I hope that this public dialogue will mark the first stepping stone for all of us to embark on a rewarding journey of mutual respect, simple decency and fairness.

Mr. Chairperson—

My brief talk this afternoon is divided into four sections:

  1. First, I will address issues of mutual concern that I share with Hon. Bahati;
  2. Secondly, I will open the window of history and offer us a glimpse of the politics of hatred and discrimination that has affected the struggle for human rights over the years;
  3. Third, I will highlight the social meaning of the bill; and
  4. Finally, I shall put on my legal hat and outline the legal implications that this bill holds for our country if passed into law.

 

  1. I.                   Common Issues of Concern

I have scrutinized the bill thoroughly and the Honourable Member of Parliament David Bahati will be surprised to learn that I share some of his convictions.  For example, Hon. Bahati I share your desires as expressed in the preamble to the bill:

  1. To strengthen the nation’s capacity to deal with emerging internal and external threats to the family unit.  It is nevertheless important to point out that most of these can hardly be realized through the regulatory mechanism of the law.
  2. To protect the cherished culture of the people of Uganda, particularly the positive aspects of it.
  3. To protect Ugandan children and youth who are vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation—whether the abuse is hetero and homosexual.

 

I do not have the time and space this afternoon to engage in a detailed sociological discussion of the concept that the bill refers to as the “Traditional African Family.”  However, it is my humble opinion that the concept needs to be unpacked and scrutinized.  Mr. Chairperson as you very well know, Africa is a vast continent with an extremely rich and diverse cultural history.  Indeed it would be next to impossible to mark a particular institution as the one and only “Traditional African Family”. 

I will cite just a few examples to demonstrate that matrimonial relations among various African communities have differed a great deal:-

a)      While marriage between first cousins was traditionally taboo among the Baganda, marriages among blood-related kin were considered the best unions among the Bahima here in Uganda; 

b)      There is the phenomenon of chigadzamapfihwa where the family of a barren wife among the Ndaus of Zimbabwe would ‘donate’ her brother’s daughter to her husband to become a co-wife and bear children on behalf of the barren woman;

c)      Practices of non-sexual woman-to-woman marriages among various African customs e.g., the Nandi and Kisii of Kenya, the Igbo of Nigeria, the Nuer of Sudan and the Kuria of Tanzania for purposes of coping with various reproductive, social and economic problems;  and

d)      Levirate marriages where a man inherits his dead brother’s wife were a customary requirement in many African communities.  

While these may have been cultural practices at some point in our history, it is also important to recognize that family institutions all over the world are undergoing rapid transformation.  The changes that we see in this basic unit of society are the result of many factors including, economic crises, an increasing number of working mothers, technological advancements, armed conflicts, natural disasters, globalization, migration, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, etc.  Many of these changes and indeed the evolution of culture cannot be halted, certainly not through law. 

Perhaps the undisputed value that is a common denominator in all traditional institutions of the family in Africa is the group solidarity that we have embedded in our extended family networks.  Unfortunately, the support, stability, love and respect that were the hallmark of this family model are rapidly being eroded and will soon become history.

Thus, while I agree with you Hon. Bahati that we must seek ways of dealing with issues that threaten our families, I do not agree that homosexuality is one of those issues.  Mr. Chairperson, Ladies and gentlemen, what issues currently threaten our families here in Uganda?  I will name a few:

a)      Blood thirsty Ugandans and traditional healers that believe that their good fortune will multiply through rituals of child sacrifice.

b)      Rapists and child molesters who pounce on unsuspecting family members.  Research undertaken by the NGO, Hope after Rape (HAR) shows that over 50% of child sexual abuse reports involve children below 10 years of age, and the perpetrators are heterosexual men who are known to the victims.[1]

c)      Sexual predators that breach the trust placed in them as fathers, teachers, religious leaders, doctors, uncles and sexually exploit young girls and boys.  A 2005 report by Raising Voices and Save the Children revealed that 90% of Ugandan children experienced domestic violence and defilement.[2]

d)      Abusive partners who engage in domestic violence whether physical, sexual or emotional.  The 2006 national study on Domestic Violence by the Law Reform Commission confirmed the DV was pervasive in our communities.  66% of people in all regions of Uganda reported that DV occurred in their homes and the majority of the perpetrators were “male heads of households.”[3]  The Uganda Demographic Health Survey of 2006 put the figure slightly higher at 68%.[4]

e)      Parents who force their 14-year old daughters to get married in exchange for bride price and marriage gifts.

f)       A whole generation of children who were either born and bred in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps or abducted by the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in the northern sub-region of Kitgum, Gulu and Pader districts.

g)      The millions of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS.  The Uganda Aids Commission puts the cumulative number of orphans due to AIDS at 2 million.[5]

h)      The all powerful patriarchs that demand total submission and rule their households with an iron hand.

i)        Rising poverty levels and growing food insecurity which lead to hunger, disease, suffering and undignified living.  Figures from the latest report from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics show that over 60% of Ugandans living in rural areas live below the poverty line.[6]

I do not see how two people who are in a loving relationship and harming no one pose a threat to the family simply because they happen to be of the same sex.  The argument that homosexuality is a threat to the continuity of humankind and that it will lead to the extinction of human beings in the world simply does not hold water because there are too many heterosexuals in the world for that to become a reality.  How many of you in this room would “convert” to homosexuality any time soon?…  So, just as the priests, nuns and monks who are sworn to a life of celibacy will not cause the extinction of humanity, homosexuals will not either. 

  1. II.                Lessons from History

Anyone who cares to read history books knows very well that in times of crisis, when people at the locus of power are feeling vulnerable and their power is being threatened, they will turn against the weaker groups in society.  They will pick out a weak voiceless group on whom to heap blame for all society’s troubles—refugees, displaced populations, stateless persons aka illegal immigrants, minorities with no status, children, the poor, the homeless, commercial sex workers, etc.  I will offer a few examples to illustrate this point:

  • In Uganda, colonialists at various times blamed traditional chiefs and elders as well as Muslims as the main impediments to progress and civilization.
  • Dictator Idi Amin blamed Asians for Uganda’s dire economic problems and expelled all Indians in the early 1970s.
  • When Milton Obote’s political power was threatened during his second regime in the early 1980s he embarked on a deliberate campaign of hostility towards refugees in Uganda, particularly those of Rwandese extract.  Obote’s persecution of the Banyarwanda in Uganda and the whipping up of anti-Rwandese sentiments included the constant reference to his political opponent, Yoweri Museveni as a “foreigner from Rwanda.”
  • In the 20 years that northern Uganda faced armed conflict, the NRM administration pointed fingers at Kony and the LRA was blamed for all the atrocities and suffering of the people in the north.
  • The transmission of HIV/AIDS at various points in our history has been blamed on different “weak” constituents including commercial sex workers, truck drivers, young women aged 15-23, and mothers to babies.
  • When native South Africans faced dire economic crisis they turned against black “foreigners”, blaming them for the high unemployment rates and sparking off brutal xenophobic attacks against helpless immigrants/migrants and refugees in May 2008.

 

The lesson drawn from these chapters in our recent history is that today it is homosexuals under attack; tomorrow it will be another exaggerated minority.

Homosexuality has troubled people for a very long time.  Some religions find it distressing and there are many debates around it.  Mr. Chairperson and distinguished participants where did the idea of destroying homosexuality come from?  As his excellency President Museveni pointed out at the inaugural Young Achievers Awards Ceremony last weekend, homosexuals existed prior to the coming of Europeans to Uganda.  According to the President:  “They were not persecuted but were not encouraged either” (Daily Monitor Nov 16, 2009 at p.2).  The idea of destroying homosexuality came from colonialists.  In other words, homosexuality was not introduced to Africa from Europe as many would want us to believe.  Rather, Europe imported legalized homophobia to Africa. 

Homosexuality was introduced as an offence in Uganda directly through laws that were imported from Britain during colonialism.  And what did these same colonialists think of the “African traditional family” in Uganda?  They certainly did not introduce sodomy laws in order to protect the traditional African family.  In fact they believed that the traditional African family was inferior to their nuclear monogamous one and considered the former barbarous and ‘repugnant to good conscience and morality.’  This colonial attitude was well exemplified in the infamous 1917 case of R. v. Amkeyo, in which Justice Hamilton dismissed customary marriages as mere ‘wife purchase.’

Today, with all the economic, social and political crises facing Uganda, homosexuals present a convenient group to point fingers at as the “biggest threat” or the “real problem” to society.  Mr. Chairperson, ladies and gentlemen, the re-criminalisation of homosexuality is meant to distract the attention of Ugandans from the real issues that harm us.  It conveniently diverts the attention of the millions of Ugandans who have been walking the streets for years with their college certificates and no jobs on offer.  Ladies and gentlemen, homosexuals have nothing to do with the hundreds of thousands of families that sleep without a meal or the millions of children who die unnecessarily every day from preventable or treatable diseases such as malaria, diarrhea, measles, pneumonia, etc.  Homosexuals are not the ones responsible for the lack of drugs and supplies at primary health care centres. 

 

  1. III.             The Social Implications of the Bill to the Average Ugandan

You may think that this bill targets only homosexual individuals.  However, homosexuality is defined in such a broad fashion as to include “touching another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.”   This is a provision highly prone to abuse and puts all citizens (both hetero and homosexuals) at great risk.   Such a provision would make it very easy for a person to witch-hunt or bring false accusations against their enemies simply to “destroy” their reputations and cause scandal.  We all have not forgotten what happened to Pastor Kayanja and other men of God in the recent past.

Moreover, the bill imposes a stiff fine and term of imprisonment for up to three years for any person in authority over a homosexual who fails to report the offender within 24 hours of acquiring such knowledge.  Hence the bill requires family members to “spy” on one another.  This provision obviously does not strengthen the family unit in the manner that Hon. Bahati claims his bill wants to do, but rather promotes the breaking up of the family.  This provision further threatens relationships beyond family members.  What do I mean?  If a gay person talks to his priest or his doctor in confidence, seeking advice, the bill requires that such person breaches their trust and confidentiality with the gay individual and immediately hands them over to the police within 24 hours.  Failure to do so draws the risk of arrest to themselves.  Or a mother who is trying to come to terms with her child’s sexual orientation may be dragged to police cells for not turning in her child to the authorities.  The same fate would befall teachers, priests, local councilors, counselors, doctors, landlords, elders, employers, MPs, lawyers, etc. 

Furthermore, if your job is in any way related to human rights activism, advocacy, education and training, research, capacity building, and related issues this bill should be a cause for serious alarm.  In a very undemocratic and unconstitutional fashion, the bill seeks to silence human rights activists, academics, students, donors and non-governmental organizations.  If passed into law it will stifle the space of civil society.  The bill also undermines the pivotal role of the media to report freely on any issue.  The point I am trying to make is that we are all potential victims of this draconian bill.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told us many years ago, “Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”  Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights instructs us: “All Human Beings are Born Free and Equal in Dignity and Rights.”   Many great people that we respect and admire have spoken out for the rights of homosexuals.  These include international award winners and champions of freedom and humanity—President Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and President Barack Obama.  Just yesterday, it was reported that former president of Botswana, Festus Mogae added his voice to those who have come out in opposition to the Bahati Bill (Daily Monitor, November 17, 2009 at p.10).

We must remember that the principal message at the heart of all religions is one of LOVE (And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love– 1 Corinthians 13: 13).  All religions teach the virtues of tolerance and urge their followers to desist from passing judgment.  Ladies and gentlemen, this bill promotes hatred, intolerance, superiority and violence.  Even if you believe that homosexuality is a sin, this bill is not the best method to address the issue.  It is valid to have religious and spiritual anxieties but our jurisprudence has a long history of separating the institutions of religion from the law.  The law, Mr. Chairperson, does not seek to ally any legal principle with a particular religion.  Mr. Stephen Langa is free to deliver his lectures on morality but it is unacceptable to reduce what his is preaching into law.  In my final submission I want to turn to a legal analysis of this bill.

 

  1. IV.              The Legal Implications of the Bill

Mr. Chairperson, ladies and gentlemen, the Anti-Homosexuality bill has a total of 18 clauses.  12 of these 18 clauses (i.e., 67%) are not new at all as they simply replicate what we already have on our law books.  So the first point I want to highlight is that Parliament has been given a bill two-thirds of whose content duplicates existing laws. 

So, let us examine the content of the remaining 6 clauses that introduce new legal provisions. 

  • Clauses 6 provides for the recognition of the right to privacy and confidentiality for the victim of homosexual assaults.  This is a procedural issue that no one can dispute and it can easily be inserted in the Penal Code provisions that criminalize rape and aggravated defilement.

 

Nevertheless, the remaining 5 clauses are extremely problematic from a legal point of view.  They violate Uganda’s constitution and many other regional and international instruments that Uganda has ratified.

  • The interpretation section (Clause 1) replicates several definitions that are provided for elsewhere.  Its novel provisions lie in the attempt to define homosexuality and its related activities.  I have already alluded to the potential danger that Ugandans face in the threatening and broad fashion that the bill defines a “homosexual act.”

 

  • Clause 13 which attempts to outlaw the “Promotion of Homosexuality” is very problematic as it introduces widespread censorship and undermines fundamental freedoms such as the rights to free speech, expression, association and assembly.  Under this provision an unscrupulous person aspiring to unseat a member of parliament can easily send the incumbent MP unsolicited material via e-mail or text messaging, implicating the latter as one “promoting homosexuality.”  After being framed in that way, it will be very difficult for the victim to shake free of the “stigma.”  Secondly, by criminalizing the “funding and sponsoring of homosexuality and related activities,” the bill deals a major blow to Uganda’s public health policies and efforts.  Take for example, the Most At Risk Populations’ Initiative (MARPI) introduced by the Ministry of Health in 2008, which targets specific populations in a comprehensive manner to curb the HIV/AIDS scourge.   If this bill becomes law, health practitioners as well as those that have put money into this exemplary initiative will automatically be liable to imprisonment for seven years!  The clause further undermines civil society activities by threatening the fundamental rights of NGOs and the use of intimidating tactics to shackle their directors and managers.

 

  • Clause 14 introduces the crime of “Failure to Disclose the Offence” of homosexuality.  As I have noted above, under this provision any person in authority is obliged to report a homosexual to the relevant authorities within 24 hours of acquiring such knowledge.  Not only does this infringe on the right to privacy but it is practically unenforceable.  It dangerously opens up room for potential abuse, blackmail, witch-hunting, etc.  Do we really want to move sexual acts between consenting adults into the public realm?
  • Clause 16 relates to extra-territorial jurisdiction, and basically confers authority on Ugandan law enforcers to arrest and charge a Ugandan citizen or permanent resident who engages in homosexual activities outside the borders of Uganda.  This law enforcement model is normally used in international crimes such as money laundering, terrorism, etc.  The Ugandan Penal Code already provides for crimes that call for extra-territoriality.  All these touch on the security of the state e.g., treason, terrorism and war mongering (see S.4 of the PCA).

When it comes to offences committed partly within and partly outside Uganda, the Penal Code provides:

When an act which, if wholly done within the jurisdiction of the court, would be an offence against this Code is done partly within and partly beyond the jurisdiction, every person who within the jurisdiction does or makes any part of such act may be tried and punished under this Code in the same manner as if such act had been done wholly within the jurisdiction. [Section 5—Emphasis added]

Note that clause16 of the Bill employs the disjunctive “or” which gives it wider reach than S.5 of the Penal Code that uses the conjunctive “and”.  Therefore, what the Bill proposes to do is to elevate homosexual acts to a position of such importance that they appear to be at an even higher plane than murder, rape or grievous bodily harm for which no such provision is made.  It is difficult to see any rational basis for such inordinate attention to homosexuality.  And how exactly will they enforce this provision?  Is the government going to storm the bedrooms of consenting adults, or deploy spies to follow them when they travel abroad in order to establish who they have slept with and how they did it?  Does this include heterosexual couples that engage in anal sex?  What about our constitutional right to privacy?  In short, this provision of the Bill is a gross abuse of the principle of extra-territoriality.  But more importantly, the bill carries hidden venom that is bound to spread beyond persons that engage in homosexuality.

  • Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this bill is Clause 18, which requires Uganda to opt out of any international treaty that we have previously ratified that goes against the spirit of the bill.   Article 287 of the Constitution obliges Uganda to fully subscribe to all its international treaties obligations ratified prior to the passing of the 2005 constitution.  We cannot legislate or simply wish these obligations away.  Indeed, international law prohibits us from doing such a thing.  Article 26 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties clearly sets out the pacta sunt servanda rule which requires that “Every treaty in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith.”  

Article 123 (1), a provision deliberately placed in Chapter Seven of the Constitution (dealing with the powers of the Executive) says:

The President or a person authorised by the President may make treaties, conventions, agreements, or other arrangements between Uganda and any other country or between Uganda and any international organisation or body, in respect of any matter.

This is a wide power that can only be limited by express language under the Constitution itself. A major procedural limitation is found in the next clause of the same article, which provides:

Parliament shall make laws to govern ratification of treaties, conventions, agreements or other arrangements made under clause (1) of this article.  (Art. 123.2)

Another substantive limitation is to be found in the Bill of Rights found in Chapter 4.  In effect, the President cannot by the mechanism of Article 123(1) sign treaties whose effect would be to amend the Constitution. Indeed, any such treaty would be, as a matter of municipal law, null and void to the extent of such inconsistency, in terms of Article 2 (2) of the Constitution.

Parliament therefore has only a procedural role to incorporate treaties into Ugandan law – and that is the full extent of its powers. It cannot purport to proscribe ex ante (before the fact) the limit of the President’s treaty making powers.  Nor indeed, can parliament bind its own future action by purporting to exercise in advance its power to scrutinize treaties signed by the President and determine which of them to ratify.  All that Parliament can do is to either ratify or refuse to ratify a treaty after it is signed, and in the latter case such treaty does not become part of Ugandan law.  This is the balance of executive power and democratic input achieved by Article 123, and one that clause 18 of the Bill is incompetent to amend.

Mr. Chairperson, distinguished participants, I wish to end by appealing to members of parliament and all Ugandans that believe in human rights and the dignity of all human beings to reject the Anti-homosexuality bill.  I am imploring Hon. Bahati to withdraw his private members bill.  Do we really in our hearts of hearts want our country to be the first on the continent to demand that mothers spy on their children, that teachers refuse to talk about what is, after all, “out there” and that our gay and lesbian citizens are systematically and legally terrorized into suicide?  Ladies and gentlemen, you may strongly disagree with the phenomenon of same-sex erotics; you may be repulsed by what you imagine homosexuals do behind their bedroom doors; you may think that all homosexuals deserve to burn in hell.  However, it is quite clear that this Bill will cause more problems around the issue of homosexuality than it will solve.  I suggest that Hon. Bahati’s bill be quietly forgotten.  It is no more or less than an embarrassment to our intelligence, our sense of justice and our hearts.

Thank you for your attention.

Response after the Q & A Session

Mr. Chairperson, in the interest of time I will respond to only three issues:

  • “Mad people” “like bats seeing the world upside down” “animals” “wicked”… These are some of the words used to describe homosexuals by the audience.  All the heckling and vicious jeering…  Mr. Bahati you commenced your talk this afternoon by saying, “We are not in the hate campaign.”  Well, if you were in any doubt about the fact that your bill is whipping up hatred and violence against homosexuals, just reflect back on the discourse that transpired in the room this afternoon. 

 

  • Secondly, Mr. Chairperson I think it is the height of paternalism and arrogance for Hon. Bahati and Mr. Langa to stand here and say they are legislating against homosexuals because they love them, they feel sorry for them, they face the risk of cancer, their lives are reduced by 20 years, etc.  Homosexuals are not asking for your pity, love, approval or redemption.  They only want you to affirm their humanness and their right to exist and be different.

 

  • Finally, Mr. Chairperson, Hon. Bahati asked the question, “Tamale, do you support homosexuality?”  I would like to tell Hon. Bahati that I am a simple woman that recognizes all human beings as worthy of dignity and rights and I am not obsessed with how people have sex in the privacy of their bedrooms.  I support the rights of all human beings regardless of how and with whom they have sex as long as they are adults and are not harming anyone.  So, the question should not be whether I support homosexuality, or heterosexuality for that matter.

 

Thank you very much Mr. Chairperson


[1]                  Study cited in Uganda Youth Development Link, Report on Sectoral Study on Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Uganda, Commissioned by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (January 2004).

[2]                  See Raising Voices and Save the Children (edited by Dipak Naker), Violence Against Children: The Voices of Ugandan Children and Adults. (2005).  Available at http://www.raisingvoices.org/files/VACuganda.RV.pdf

[3]                  See Law Reform Commission, A Study Report on Domestic Violence, April 2006 at p.112

[4]                  See http://www.measuredhs.com/pubs/pdf/FR194/FR194.pdf

[5]                  See Report by the Office of the Auditor General, Value for Money Audit Report on Uganda AIDS Control Project, October 2007.  Available at http://www.oag.go.ug/docs/UACauditreport.pdf

[6]                  See UBOS, Spatial Trends of Poverty and Inequality in Uganda: 2002-2005, February 2009.

For the first time at a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, at CHOGM in Trinidad & Tobago, there was significant representation of GLBTQ (gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender/queer) activists among civil society participants, and a concerted effort to highlight issues of sexual citizenship and rights.

A delegation of GLBTQ activists from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean participated actively in the thematic assembly discussions and drafting process in the November 22-25, 2009 Commonwealth People’s Forum (CPF), a gathering of civil society organizations that meets in advance of, and sends a statement to, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

Working in partnership with gender, disabilities and other human rights advocates, they achieved visibility for a number of key concerns, and won inclusion of these issues in the broad civil society agenda for the Commonwealth.

 

The issues cut a wide swath: repealing laws criminalizing non-normative sexualities and gender expression; preventing and prosecuting bias-related murders and violence, including punitive rape of Lesbians; ending discrimination in accessing health services; creating safety in the school system from violence and bullying; addressing the need for support and resources for parents; and developing training and sensitization for a range of public servants and service providers.

Both scheduled speakers and participants from the floor made moving contributions related to human rights violations on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in Commonwealth member countries.

Especially powerful speeches came from Ashily Dior, a Transgender activist from Trinidad;

Canadian Stephen Lewis, co-director of AIDS Free World

and former UN Special Envoy on HIV in Africa; and Robert Carr, director of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition.

Together, contributors raised a comprehensive range of concerns in several of the assemblies, particularly those focused on Gender; Health, HIV and AIDS; and Human Rights.

 

The final Port of Spain Civil Society Statement to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting includes language calling on “Commonwealth Member States and Institutions” to “recognize and protect the human rights of all individuals without discrimination on the grounds of…sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression”; to “repeal legislation that leads to discrimination, such as the criminalisation of same sex sexual relationships”; and for “the Commonwealth Foundation to facilitate a technical review of such of laws”.

(blogger’s translation: for queer/trans afrikan communities this means more funding for more administrative and research positions, more money chanelled through  HIV/AIDS  health networks, more token nominations, and more assistance to escape and possibly attain refugee status based on grounds of sexual orientation and/or gender identity…)

Further, it issues a call for “Commonwealth Member States to ensure universal access to basic” health “services for marginalised and vulnerable groups”, including “sexual and gender minorities”, and to “work to actively remove and prevent the establishment of legislation which undermines evidence-based effective HIV prevention, treatment and care available to marginalised and vulnerable groups, such as sexual minorities”.

Its Gender section includes a distinct item on “Transgenders, Gays and Lesbians” (“We call on Commonwealth Member States to include gender and sexuality as a specific theme on sexualities, sexual and gender minorities, related violence and discrimination, making them no longer invisible”) and echoes the recognition in the human rights section “that gender equity implies equality for all and therefore issues related to non-normative sexualities, such as sexual and gender minorities”.

 

The Statement also makes reference to proposed “Anti-Homosexuality” legislation introduced in the Parliament of Uganda, home of current CHOGM Chair President Yoweri Museveni. The legislation would require reporting of homosexuals, provide a sentence of life imprisonment for homosexual touching or sex, and the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”, if the offender is HIV-positive.

In remarks in more than one CPF assembly and in a special press conference, Lewis, Carr and a representative of the Caribbean HIV & AIDS Alliance, spoke out forcefully against the legislation, asking Museveni to take a clear position on it, and calling on others to condemn it. The Trinidad & Tobago Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation joined these voices, asking its own Prime Minister Patrick Manning, who will assume the chairmanship of CHOGM, and other CARICOM leaders, to do the same.

 

Eighty-six countries in the world currently have legislation criminalizing same-sex conduct between consenting adults as well as other non normative sexual and gender behaviours and identities; half of them are Commonwealth member states. Criminal provisions in these countries may target same sex sexual conduct, men who have sex with men specifically, or more generally any sexual behaviour considered “unnatural”.

Some countries criminalize other non normative behaviours, such as cross-dressing, or utilize criminal provisions on indecency or debauchery, among others, to target individuals on their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

hese criminal provisions not only constitute a violation of civil and political rights in and of themselves because they violate key provisions established by international human rights law; they also have significant human rights implications, representing a serious risk for the exercise of other fundamental rights, such as the right to association, the right to assembly, and the right to expression, the right to health, the principle of non discrimination, to mention a few.

Furthermore, the mere existence of these laws is in many countries is an avenue for other human rights violations by state and non-state actors.

 We acknowledge and welcome the civil society consensus on the above mentioned issues, and call on Commonwealth member states, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Foundation to implement the recommendations of the Commonwealth People’s Forum.

  You can access the Port of Spain Civil Society Statement to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 25 November at: http://www.commonwealthfoundation.com/governancedemocracy/CPF2009/NewPublicationsCPF/

 

·     Alternative Law Forum (ALF) – India

·     Center for Popular Education and Human Rights Ghana (CEPEHRG)  – Ghana

·     Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO) – Trinidad & Tobago

·     Gay and Lesbian coalition of Kenya (GALCK) – Kenya

·     GrenCHAP – Grenada

·     Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays – (J-FLAG) – Jamaica

·     Knowledge and Rights with Young People through Safer Spaces (KRYSS) – Malaysia

·     Lesbians and Gays Bisexuals Botswana (LEGABIBO) – Botswana

·     People Like Us (PLU) – Singapore

·     Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) – Guyana

·     The Independent Project (TIP) – Nigeria

·     United and Strong – St Lucia

·     United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) – Belize

·     United Gays and Lesbians against AIDS Barbados (UGLAAB) – Barbados

·     Global Rights

·     International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC