During an international review of Uganda’s human rights record, the Ugandan government made no direct mention of LGBTI rights and did not commit to addressing the stigma and homophobia that hang over Uganda’s LGBTI community.
The latest focus on human rights in Uganda came during the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process on 27 January, in a meeting that was attended by 97 states. Details of the review can be viewed here.
During the meeting, representatives from numerous countries which included Canada, Denmark, Germany, France, Malta, Ecuador, Portugal, Luxembourg, Spain, Brazil and Ireland, among others, urged the government of Uganda to decriminalize same-sex relationships and end discrimination against LGBTI persons.
Uganda was reviewed on the basis of information provided by the government in its national report, information contained in the reports of independent human rights experts and groups, human rights treaty bodies, and other UN entities as well as information provided by other stakeholders, including national human rights institutions, regional organizations and civil society groups.
In his submission during the review, the Foreign Affairs Minister and head of the Uganda delegation, Jeje Odongo, said that Uganda had upheld rights and freedoms despite the legacy of colonialism, taken part in many U.N. peacekeeping missions and respected international human rights standards.
“Our government remains committed to upholding the rights and freedoms in our Bill of Rights and Constitution. We have adopted a human rights-based approach to development”, Jeje said.
However, he said that rights that are acceptable in some cultures may not necessarily be accepted in Uganda — a comment that some suspect was directed at LGBTI people’s rights. (Watch at 02:53 of the video of Gen. Odongo’s response to the review.)
In a joint submission to the national UPR stakeholders’ forum Secretariat, over 40 civil society organizations working under the auspices of Uganda’s Sexual Minorities Cluster urged the government of Uganda to repeal all repressive and discriminatory laws that are used to unjustifiably limit the human rights of LGBTI persons and sex workers and limit the civic space for civil society organizations working with sexual minorities.
The Sexual Minorities Cluster is jointly convened by Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) and Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). This years report can be accessed here.
The executive director of SMUG, Dr. Frank Mugisha, lauded countries that raised the issue of LGBTI rights in Uganda, saying that despite the difficult times they face at home, Uganda’s human rights defenders have allies they can count on.
Uganda’s first and second UPR reviews were in October 2011 and October 2016.
The UPR is a process that involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 U.N. member states. Since its first meeting in April 2008, all those member states have been reviewed twice within the first and second UPR cycles. During the current, third UPR cycle, governments are again expected to spell out steps they have taken to implement recommendations posed and agreed upon during their previous reviews and to highlight recent human rights developments in their countries.
The United States, Uganda’s key development partner, issued the following statement, specifically calling on Uganda to respect LGBT rights. It iss reproduced verbatim below:
U.S. Statement on Uganda at the Universal Periodic Review 40th session
As delivered by Delaney Felker, Foreign Affairs Officer
The United States appreciates Uganda’s longstanding policy of open borders for refugees seeking safety, including ongoing efforts to support individuals from Afghanistan relocated by private organizations. However, we remain concerned about worsening restrictions on civic space.
We recommend that Uganda:
- Lift ongoing suspensions of civil society organizations to contribute to promoting and protecting freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association;
- Pursue a full accounting of the violence and killings committed leading up to the 2021 elections, particularly enforced disappearances and the November 2020 actions of security forces, to ensure accountability and build public trust in institutions; and
- Ensure respect for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex persons, including by ending the use of forced anal examinations on them.