5-10-2011By Fighting Discrimination Program
Human Rights First
The Ugandan Parliament is currently holding hearings on the infamous antigay bill that, if passed, will undoubtedly lead to more discrimination, persecution, and violence against Uganda’s LGBTI individuals, while also requiring families, friends, and even teachers and doctors to report alleged homosexuals to the authorities.
The bill would threaten health programs and initiatives to combat HIV/AIDS, pushing the country backward in the fight with AIDS.
Furthermore, the passage of such a heinous bill may result in the U.S. government’s reevaluation of its foreign aid to Uganda—following the passage of an amendment by the U.S. House Financial Services Committee that questions financial assistance to countries known for gross human rights violations, including persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Last month, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner pledged to work to restrict funds from international development banks to foreign governments that allow such abuses. (Uganda receives as much as 2 billion dollars annually through this type of aid, in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by the U.S. and other countries on development assistance in the country.)
The Parliament’s decision to reinstate the hearings after the bill was shelved months ago is even more surprising considering the situation that the government is facing in the country. In April, popular demonstrations erupted in protest of rising food and fuel prices, as well as the arrest of the opposition leader, Kizza Besigye.
Human rights groups have called on the government to investigate the violent response to the demonstrations. Government agencies in Uganda are saying that the country is losing as much as 100 million dollars per month in tourism revenue. Apparently, this is less of a concern to the Ugandan Parliament, which—if Stephen Tashobya and David Bahati have their way—will give the bill priority and vote on it by the end of the week.
This vote must not happen.
This bill would have disastrous effects for the LGBT community in Uganda, would aggravate an already alarming trend in criminalization of homosexuality across Africa, and could spur a wave of refugees fleeing this persecution.
Before President Yoweri Museveni goes through the inauguration on Thursday, he must send clear signals to the Parliament that this legislation is unnecessary, violates fundamental human rights, and is damaging to Uganda’s position in the international community.
Read More: the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law Uganda–a group composed of 31 NGOs–issued a joint statement opposing the bill on May 9th, providing the Legal and Parliamentary affairs Committee of the Parliament of Uganda with a human rights and constitutional audit of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009.