Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill

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2009 National LGBT Conference
7 November 2009

Conference notes with concern the draft “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” introduced in the Ugandan Parliament on 14 October 2009.

Uganda’s penal code, inherited from British colonial rule, already criminalises “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature”. The police arbitrarily arrest people accused of consensual sex with someone of the same gender. There are documented cases of torture or other ill-treatment of people in detention.

The new Bill goes beyond this in specifically penalising homosexuality, using life imprisonment to punish anything from sexual stimulation to simply “touch[ing] another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.” It would also create a new offence of “aggravated homosexuality” – including activity by “serial offenders” or those who are Human Immune-Deficiency Virus positive – which will incur the death penalty.

And, in an attack on the basic right to freedom of expression, a new, wide-ranging provision would forbid the “promotion of homosexuality” – including publishing information or providing funds, premises for activities, or other resources. Conviction could result in up to seven years in prison.

The Bill also includes a provision that could lead to imprisonment for up to three years of anyone who fails to report within 24 hours the identities of everyone they know who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), or who supports human rights for people who are.

Shockingly, the Bill claims jurisdiction over Ugandans who violate its provisions while outside the country. The Bill is clearly contrary to international human rights agreements and states that any such human rights provisions are rendered “null and void”.

Conference notes that the Bill has been brought forward in the context of upcoming presidential elections in 2011. It also follows a well-publicised anti-gay seminar held in Uganda in March, organised by the Uganda Family Life Network, an anti-gay organisation, and supported by members of the American religious right and “ex-gay” movement.

Conference welcomes the formation, in response to the Bill, of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, comprising 25 civil society organisations working in Uganda. The Coalition’s statement issued on 23 October highlighted that the Bill does not only target homosexuals but every Ugandan citizen, dubbing it an Anti-Human Rights Bill. It further pointed out that the bill contradicts eight fundamental human rights protections enshrined in the Ugandan constitution.

Conference states its vehement opposition to this Bill and instructs the National LGBT Committee, working with the National Executive Council, to:

1.Seek the most effective ways of supporting the campaign being led by the Coalition to defeat the Bill and of mobilising trade union and civil society support, including action by Labour internationals;

2.Continue to campaign for decriminalisation, also recognising the threats to freedom of assembly and expression in this Bill;

3.Raise the issue with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with a view to mobilising international opposition, and the Home Office, to seek to ensure that the United Kingdom does not return LGBT asylum seekers to Uganda.