Uganda strategy joins gay rights to women’s rights, health

Amnesty International's "Rule of Law" report on Uganda. (Click image for link to PDF file.)
Amnesty International’s “Rule of Law” report on Uganda. (Click image for link to PDF file.)

Amnesty International is pushing for an end to repression in Uganda through a welcome strategy of including LGBTI rights issues in the context of that overall  human rights violations, abuse of women, and limitations on freedom of assembly and access to health services.

It’s a strategy that aims to avoid the misinterpretation that seeking LGBTI rights is an attempt to claim special treatment for homosexuals.

Sarah Jackson of Amnesty International presents "Rule of Law" report to Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda (James Budeyo photo courtesy of Chimp Reports)
Sarah Jackson of Amnesty International presents  the “Rule of Law” report to Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda (James Budeyo photo courtesy of Chimp Reports)

Amnesty’s new report, titled “Rule by Law,” shows that “Repression in Uganda is increasingly state-sanctioned through the use of blatantly discriminatory legislation that erodes rights guaranteed in the country’s Constitution,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for East Africa.

In Amnesty’s presentations, those rights include:

The rights of women — “In the days after the Anti-Pornography Act was signed, women were harassed by the police, and one lawyer was threatened with arrest because of her clothing.”

The rights of LGBTI people — “The Anti-Homosexuality Act also led to LGBTI people being evicted from their homes and losing their jobs. LGBTI people and women were subject to mob attacks in the streets while the Anti-Homosexuality Act was in force and immediately after the Anti-Pornography Act was signed.”

The rights of every citizen to freedom of assembly — That right “has come under attack through the Public Order Management Act, which imposes wide-ranging restrictions on public meetings. … This legislation has led to police suppressing gatherings involving political opposition groups and crackdowns on activists. … [It] has had a devastating effect on the ability of civil society to organize, even stymieing attempts to challenge the laws themselves.”

The right to adequate health care — “The Anti-Homosexuality Act was … invoked to restrict certain assistance to refugees. Most services of the Refugee Law Project (RLP), an organization that supports asylum seekers and refugees, have been suspended by the authorities since March 2014 following trumped-up allegations that it was ‘promoting homosexuality’.

Patience Akumu (Photo courtesy of The Independent)
Patience Akumu (Photo courtesy of The Independent)

“The Anti-Homosexuality Act also compromised access to healthcare. A police raid on the Walter Reed Project, a HIV-research project, in April 2014 made some LGBTI individuals too scared to access healthcare.

“In June 2014, the Ministry of Health issued a directive affirming non-discrimination in access to healthcare. Despite these positive commitments, overall the ability of organizations to provide healthcare has been negatively affected by the Anti-Homosexuality Act.”

In presenting the new report, Amnesty officials were joined by supporters of human rights, women’s rights, and LGBTI rights, including Stephen Oola, a program manager at the Refugee Law Project; Pepe Julian Onziema, program director of Sexual Minorities Uganda; and journalist Patience Akumu, a supporter of women’s and LGBTI rights in Uganda.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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