Uganda: Clergy and civil society call to stop anti-homosexuality bill
Leading African clergy and prominent individuals, as well as more than 60 civil society and human rights groups from 10 sub-Saharan African countries have endorsed a statement calling on the President, Government and Parliament of Uganda to reject the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in its entirety.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill provides for severe punishment, inclusive imprisonment, for those engaging in same sex relations, as well as for members of the public who fail to report such activities to the authorities. The original draft also provides for the death penalty and life imprisonment. The Bill has already gone through the first reading in Parliament and is now before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. “We are very concerned that it could become law within a few weeks or months”, said Adrian Jjuuko, Coordinator of Uganda's Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law.
The statement has been endorsed by leading African clergy such as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, the current Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Reverend Dr. Thabo Cecil Makgoba and Canon Gideon Byamugisha of Uganda. Others endorsing the statement include Pius Langa, the former Chief Justice of South Africa, and other jurists, academics, truth commissioners and human rights activists.
In the declaration, the endorsing individuals and organizations reaffirm their commitment to the universality of the human rights of all persons. They note that “all forms of discrimination, in particular against vulnerable groups, undermine the human dignity of all in Africa”. The statement declares that the Bill “promotes prejudice and hate and encourages harmful and violent action against marginalized groups in Africa”.
“Civil society organisations throughout Africa are mobilizing to persuade Ugandan Parliamentarians to block this pernicious Bill”, said Phumi Mtetwa, executive director of the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project in South Africa. Godwin Buwa, a lawyer with the Refugee Law Project in Kampala said that “if the Bill is passed, even in diluted form, it would constitute a massive setback for human rights in Africa”.
The statement calls on African governments and the African Union to call on the President and Government of Uganda to withdraw the Bill and to respect the human rights of all in Uganda, without exception.
CALL BY AFRICAN CIVIL SOCIETY: REJECT THE ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY BILL
We, the individuals and organisations from African countries listed hereunder, recognise the universality of the human rights of all persons.
We affirm that the right of men and women to have same sex relationships is a fundamental human right.
We are further guided in the knowledge that all forms of discrimination, in particular against vulnerable groups, undermine the human dignity of all in Africa.
We are therefore profoundly disturbed by the nature, content and potential impact of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (“the Bill”) that was recently tabled in and is currently being considered by the Parliament of Uganda.
We believe that the Bill, if enacted, will cut deeply into the fabric of Ugandan society by–
- Violating the rights of an already vulnerable and severely stigmatised group of persons by attacking their dignity, privacy and other constitutionally protected rights;
- Disrupting family and community life by compelling everyone, by the threat of criminal sanction, to report those suspected of engaging in same-sex sexual activity;
- Seeking to withdraw Uganda from the family of nations by reneging on the country’s international law obligations;
- Undermining public health interventions such as HIV prevention, treatment, care and support;
- Promoting prejudice and hate and encouraging harmful and violent action to be taken against those engaging in same sex relations.
- We respectfully call on the Parliament of Uganda to reject the Bill in its entirety.
We also call on African governments and the African Union to call on the President and Government of Uganda to withdraw the Bill and to respect the human rights of all in Uganda, without exception