Kerry Kennedy, President of the RFK Center, Expresses Grave Concern over Legislating Hatred by the Ugandan Parliament
WASHINGTON (Feb. 9, 2012) – Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, expresses grave concern regarding the reintroduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill amongst cheers in the Ugandan Parliament on Tuesday. “The Anti-Homosexuality Bill poses a serious threat to the rights and freedoms of all Ugandans” said Kennedy. “The proposed bill legislates hate, and it will be a clear violation of international law.”
The bill would compel families, doctors, and counselors to report on all those thought to be engaged in a wide range of activities forbidden by the bill. It would impose criminal sanctions on those failing to report, and, given the vagueness of the bill, even the death penalty.
Combined with other legislation before the Parliament, like portions of the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Bill also reintroduced yesterday, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would hinder Uganda’s HIV prevention efforts, contributing to the possible resurgence of HIV prevalence in the country.
Across Uganda, LGBTI people face physical attacks and rape, extortion by neighbors, arbitrary arrest by police, expulsion from schools, and denial of adequate healthcare among many other human rights violations. Of utmost concern are the provisions of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that criminalize civil society organizations and individual citizens from speaking out against these abuses or defending the legal rights of their fellow Ugandans simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is a blatant suppression of the rights of all Ugandans and an attempt to curtail the freedoms of speech and assembly of a vibrant civil society in Uganda.
Though the bill mainly targets consensual adult conduct, the bill’s supporters claim to be acting in the name of protecting Ugandan children. In effect, their efforts do the opposite, and could potentially disrupt Ugandan families, increase the HIV prevalence in the country, and set a frightening precedent for the silencing of rights advocacy of any group deemed undesirable by politicians.
Despite reports to the contrary, the latest version of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill remains unchanged from its original form in 2009, including the provisions for the imposition of the death penalty. Further, Parliament remains nontransparent and inconsistent in announcing the proper procedure for the passage of previously expired bills. The reintroduction of this bill and others is in fact unprecedented.
Today, the RFK Center joins international rights groups around the world in emphatically calling for the Ugandan Parliament to withdraw or vote down the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. However, the bill’s passage into law is not the only threat to Ugandans. The government of Uganda and its police and security forces must take decisive and proactive action to prevent vigilante violence and attacks against the LGBTI community and its allies as was experienced throughout 2009 and 2010 when this hateful piece of legislation first stirred up controversy, which was then amplified by sensationalist media outlets and homophobic religious leaders.
In partnership with Frank Mugisha and Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), the RFK Center will continue to advocate vigorously against the passage of this bill and to stop state-sanctioned homophobia from taking further root in Uganda.
“The reintroduction of the bill threatens our rights as citizens and our safety in our communities,” said Frank Mugisha, Executive Director of SMUG and 2011 RFK Human Rights Award Laureate. “But we are committed to fighting its passage and ensuring that Parliament protects the rights of all Ugandan citizens.”