Thousands of civil society activists, including Amnesty International supporters in the UK, Canada, Spain and Germany are acting together today in solidarity with campaigners in Uganda to show their opposition to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill and call on President Museveni to veto it.
“If this deeply discriminatory bill is passed it will legalize the persecution of people on the grounds of their sexual orientation. Since the Bill was proposed there’s been an increase in homophobic arrests and mob violence. This is turning into a witch-hunt. President Museveni must veto the bill before the situation worsens,” said Gemma Houldey, Uganda Researcher at Amnesty International.
The Global Day of Action has been organized by Ugandan civil society groups, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) activists.
People around the world, including civil society groups in Europe and the United States, will show their solidarity through protests, petitions and action on social media demanding that Uganda’s President Museveni vetoes the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in its entirety.
The Bill was passed by the Ugandan Parliament on 20 December 2013. The president only has until 23 February to veto or amend the bill to stop it becoming law.
Since the Bill was passed, Ugandan civil society groups have documented at least seven arrests of LGBTI people. Two were required to have anal examinations to ‘prove’ they are engaging in same-sex sexual activity. These examinations are tantamount to torture and scientifically invalid.
Ugandan civil society organizations report that anal examinations are becoming a routine procedure for men arrested on suspicion of engaging in sex with other men. LGBTI people are also increasingly being harassed and some individuals have been attacked by mobs.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill would increase the number of criminal offences related to same-sex sexual activity and violates Uganda’s own constitution.
The maximum penalty for engaging in same-sex sexual activity remains life immprisonment. The death penalty for aggravated homosexuality has been removed.
People working on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programmes and LGBTI rights would face criminal charges and jail terms for promoting homosexuality
“The Bill would not only criminalize LGBTI people, it would have a devastating effect on healthcare professionals and human rights activists. It is effectively state sanctioned homophobia,” said Clare Byarugaba, a Ugandan LGBTI rights activist.
“Now is the time to stand in solidarity with LGBTI people in Uganda. President Museveni must reject this Bill and recognize that human rights are for all Ugandans.”
Freedom House (USA, www.freedomhouse.org)
Out and Equal Workplace (USA, www.outandequal.org)
Global Rights (USA, www.globalrights.org)
According to Uganda’s Constitution, the President has 30 days to respond to a Bill passed by Parliament. He can give his assent, reject the Bill entirely or send it back to Parliament with suggested amendments. A Bill can become law without the President’s assent if it is returned to Parliament twice and Parliament votes in favour of it with a two-thirds majority.
This Global Day of Action is organized in response to the urgent need to ensure that the Ugandan President vetoes the Bill before the 30 day counter for his response expires on 22 February. The Ugandan Civil Society Coalition for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, a coalition of 51 Ugandan organizations working on LGBTI rights, has called for demonstrations, silent vigils, petitions, public solidarity messages and images and social media actions calling on the President to veto the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in its entirety.
The Ugandan Penal Code already criminalizes “carnal knowledge…against the order of nature,” with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
The final text of the Bill has still not been released by Parliament, but there are reports that discriminatory provisions from earlier drafts remain. These include criminal penalties for the ‘promotion of homosexuality,’ which violate the right to freedom of expression and would criminalize the activities of individuals or organizations who work with LGBTI people.
Laws criminalizing consensual sexual activity violate Uganda’s own constitution, as well as people’s human rights, including the right to privacy, as guaranteed by international human rights treaties to which Uganda is a party.