This update from Uganda tells of the ongoing struggle against that country’s repressive Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
The information, which has been lightly edited, was provided by Frank Kamya, secretary-administrator of the anti-AIDS pro-LGBT-rights group Youth on Rock Foundation, which needs and deserves financial support to help it continue its good work despite ongoing police harassment:
As you may all be aware by now, the nation is mourning the loss of a great
leader, the first deputy Prime Minister/Minister of East African Community
Affairs, Rt. Hon. Eriya Kategaya, who is said to have given Uganda
illustrious service spanning decades and had been a champion for the East
African Community. He was honored for his commitment to Pan Africanism.
On Tuesday, March 5, parliament had a special sitting to pay tribute to him and adjourned until Tuesday, March 12.
These unfortunate events have afforded us some time to continue opposing this bill [nicknamed the “Kill the Gays” bill] diligently. We cannot afford to relax because the information we have from key clerks of key parliament committees is that MPs already have their position in support of this bill and they are ready to pass it if it reaches the floor of parliament.
As Ugandan citizens, we are continuing to task our families, friends, member organisations, staff members, local partners, etc. to contact their MPs [on this MP contact list] not to vote on this bill. Let’s keep the pressure up. We won’t stop till they stop!
We shall soon come up with a revised action plan for our international
allies in case the situation changes, but for now guidelines from November 2012 are still very relevant. [See the guidelines below.]
Some promising news
The coalition has heard back from the registrar of the constitutional court in response to a landmark case of Jjuuko Adrian v. Attorney General Constitutional Petition No.1 of 2009. He wrote apologizing for the delays in the delivery of a judgement and promises that a judgement is being prepared and will be delivered soon.
If the case receives a positive ruling, we would have gone a very far in fighting for the rights of marginalized groups in Uganda.
[In that case, the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) and its executive director, Adrian Jjuuko, seek to overturn a law that blocks Uganda’s Equal Opportunities Commission from investigating discrimination against people whom cultural majorities in Uganda consider “immoral or socially unacceptable.”
As the HRAPF states, “This simply defeats the whole purpose of the commission, which is to ‘eliminate discrimination and inequalities against any individual … and take affirmative action in favour of groups marginalised on the basis of sex, gender, age, disability or any other reason created by history, tradition or custom for the purpose of redressing imbalances which exist against them.’ “]
Events of the week
Several events planned for this week — Sexual and Gender Based Violence /Persecution (SGBVP) Awareness Week — were aimed at involving LGBT people in positive ways with the general Ugandan population.
One activity involved blood donation, voluntary blood testing and
counseling, which has been carried out on all people who participated
in this event without discrimination regarding their gender identity
or sexual orientation.
It has been really a great milestone and a safe space where we
engaged one-on-one with community people, dialoguing on their
attitudes towards the LGBTI and the bill. Most people showed much
bitterness towards us and strongly supporting the passing of the bill
into a law. But we went ahead, giving them our brochures about our
organization’s activities. Among the people who attended were police, teachers, business people, doctors, civil society institutions and community youths.
These events, scheduled for this week, were organized by the Refugee Law Project (RLP) in consultation with Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG):
- March from RLP offices to the National Theatre
- Opening and Welcome Remarks – Director of RLP
- Speeches by Support Group Leaders
- Speech by the Dean, MUK School of Law
- Performance by refugee groups
- Keynote address by UNCHR Country Director
- Speech by the Chief Walker/Guest – The Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development
- Closing remarks – By Eunice Owiny, Mental Health & Psychosocial Wellbeing Programme
- Visits to refugees, asylum seekers and inmates
- Activities ongoing for the refugee communities
- Radio and TV talk shows
- Commemoration of International Women’s Day
The guidelines urge non-Ugandan supporters NOT to:
1. Put out any public press statements on the Bill for now. But you can express your opinion if asked about the Bill. However this opinion must be candid and practical without being insulting.
2. Make strong public statements threatening to cut aid or in support of such threats in response to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, as this can lead to scape-goating of the LGBTI community as well as Human Rights Defenders working with LGBTI rights and whip up sentiments for the Bill.
The guidelines encourage non-Ugandan supporters to:
1. Urgently engage with the leadership of the nation (the President, the Prime
Minister, the Leader of Opposition, The Speaker, the Minister for Gender Labor and Social Development, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Ethics and Integrity, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Justice and any other Cabinet Ministers that you can engage with, the Inspector General of Police and the Principal Judge) to impress upon them the needlessness and imminent harm of this bill. This must however been done diplomatically and off the media. There should not be any media/public admonitions PLEASE!
2. Engage with any non-LGBTI partner organizations in Uganda that you may collaborate with or whom you fund to establish what their thinking is on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, as well as their thinking on other related legislative moves such as the proposal to amend the Penal Code in line with the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. We would strongly encourage other
mainstream Ugandan organizations such as human rights NGOs and entities like the Uganda Law Society to speak out strongly against the impartiality of the speaker as well as this draconian bill.
3. Draw international public attention to issues such as corruption (tagging it to the recent corruption cases in the Ministry of Public Service and the Office of the Prime Minister), human trafficking, nodding disease, land-grabbing, as well as the suppression of media freedom and civil society space, so that attention shifts to where it properly belongs; in the best interests of the country’s population as a whole.
4. Go ahead with any preparations of statements, campaigns, and other public documents for when the bill appears on the Order Paper of Parliament (you will be alerted when this happens) as well as for a worst-case scenario in which the Bill is passed into law.
5. Contribute physical, financial, or technical support to the LGBTI community as well as the exposed Human Rights Defenders working with LGBTI rights who are likely to begin to be arrested and charged almost as soon as the Bill is passed. The entire leadership of the Uganda Coalition has decided that any such assistance shall be channeled through a central
point at the CSCHRCL secretariat from where it shall be communally managed.
6. Engage with your policy makers to take stronger measures to ensure that LGBTI issues are mainstreamed into calls for proposals, grant agreements, project design, implementation and evaluation as part of a long term strategy to establish LGBTI friendly services and programmes for all Ugandans as an inclusive practice.
Please note: We would like Ugandans to take charge of this campaign for now. Only if the Bill is mentioned/programmed in the Business of Parliament or passed into law shall we encourage a fullyfledged international outcry which can come in all forms such as; Public statements (written or
spoken), public letters, solidarity campaigns, peaceful protests, interviews, opinion pieces et cetera.