SMUG Rejects Re-Tabled Anti Homosexuality Bill
Rafto Laureate 2011 Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) by Frank Mugisha gravely opposes the Parliament’s re-tabling of Hon. David Bahati’s notorious “Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009 on 7 February 2012 at the opening of the 9th Parliament.
Saturday, 18 February 2012, by HRH Bergen, based on Rafto Foundation infromation
The re-tabling of the Bill comes a few days after the first anniversary of the murder of SMUG’s Advocacy and Litigation Officer - David Kato who was killed on 26 January 2011. “This bill if passed will only serve to show that the state is not committed to protecting minority groups within its borders” said Dennis Wamala, Vice Chair SMUG Executive Board.
Homosexuality= death penalty
Last week international media widely reported that the bill has been amended to remove the provision that would assign the death penalty to someone who was convicted of ‘serial’ acts of homosexuality. However this is inaccurate. While Hon. Bahati has indicated his ‘willingness’ as the Member moving the Bill to remove the provision, the version re-tabled appears to be the original, intact form. According to SMUG, even if such an amendment were to be recommended and adopted, it would render the Bill no more acceptable. “This bill is not only about homosexuality, but it can actually target the heterosexual community, who, for instance, fail to disclose people they know are homosexuals. We shall fight it to end” said Frank Mugisha, Executive Director of SMUG and 2011 Laureate - Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.
Uganda NGOs continue to oppose bill
SMUG calls on the Members of Parliament and the executive to focus on the real issues that are affecting the nation such as unemployment, inadequate health services especially with the outbreak of the ‘nodding disease’ in Northern Uganda. “It is un-African to suggest killing, whether it is because of sexual orientation or any other reason. We think this bill is very unfair. We are lobbying for its removal,” said Anglican priest Michael Kimindu, the African president of the Other Sheep, a gay rights group in Kenya. Sexual Minorities Uganda reiterates that the bill be withdrawn in its entirety because it is anti-human rights and affects every Uganda in ways they do not understand. “With or without the death penalty, this Bill remains unacceptable, and Ugandans who love their country, regardless of sexual orientation, should stand against it.” Pepe Julian Onziema.
Frank Mugisha describes a life in Uganda in fear: "I don't know what could happen to me at any minute. I do not know who wants to hang me, I do not know who wants to attack me". A high-profile SMUG activist, David Kato, was killed in his home in January 2011. The killing came after his photo appeared on the front page of a local newspaper, Rolling Stone, accompanied by the headline: "Uganda's top 100 homos. Hang them!". Kato and two other activists took the newspaper to court and won. Soon after, he was killed. Victor Juliet Mukasa, another of SMUG's founders, sees himself as a lesbian and transgender person. While growing up, he was beaten by his father who could not accept that his daughter was behaving like a boy. He was encouraged to seek help from the church, where he was stripped and beaten in front of a large crowd "in order to drive out the evil spirits". In 2005 his home was raided by the police. Mukasa took the case to court, and won, but had to flee the country.
A lesbian who fled Uganda after being beaten and threatened by a mob before having her house burned to the ground explains: “They would point and shout at us in the street. They would swear or say 'You lesbians, that is disgusting. It is against nature. Heaven will not accept you'". She fears for what will happen when she returns to Uganda after being refused residency in Great Britain.
Political distraction. The situation for sexual minorities in Uganda must be seen in the context of the political developments in the country, where President Yoweri Museveni has been in power for 25 years. Ugandan politicians like David Bahati, use sexual minorities as scapegoats for social problems. They serve as a useful distraction from human rights violations, corruption, and misgovernment. By playing on people's prejudices, anti-democratic forces gain greater room to manoeuvre. It is important the international community also sees the bigger picture, and don’t let the "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" distract from other human rights abuses.
Unfortunately, the situation in Uganda is not unique. Political and social mobilisation against sexual minorities is increasing in large parts of Africa; often, as in Uganda, supported by conservative American religious communities. The majority of countries in Africa and the Middle East have strong sodomy laws and in several Muslim countries, homosexuals risk the death penalty. Discrimination and harassment of sexual minorities continues to be a problem across many areas of the world, including where legislation formally respects sexual orientation and gender identity as part of the right to a private life.
SMUG urges all Ugandan allies to take the following actions:
Contact the leadership of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee and express your opposition to the Bill.
Issue public statements condemning this bill
Write emails to and/or call Ugandan Members of Parliament (MPs) urging them to resist and reject the Bill in its entirety. The full list of all 386 Members of Parliament can be found here.
We urge our Regional and International Partners to take the following actions:
Contact Ugandan embassies in foreign countries and express your opposition to the Bill in any form.
Sexual Minorities Uganda - SMUG is a network of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex organizations based in Uganda.
HRH Bergen, based on Rafto Foundation infromation