Nobel Peace Laureates raise their voices to protect LGBTI rights
A welcome sign of hope for Ugandan activists
(Washington – June 21, 2012) In an unprecedented statement, four esteemed Nobel Laureates, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Muhammad Yunus, have expressed solidarity with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people worldwide. Together, they call on the global community to recognize that traditional cultural values compel them to respect the inherent dignity and human rights of all individuals.
The RFK Center’s release of the statement in conjunction with Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) is particularly relevant to Uganda in light of recent events. This week, the Ugandan government has openly restricted the rights of civil society and shown a total disregard for the human rights of LGBTI people.
"It is clear that our government and Christian leaders are escalating their campaign of intimidation and harassment against the LGBTI community in Uganda," said Frank Mugisha, executive director of SMUG and 2011 RFK Human Rights Award Laureate. "We welcome the moral courage of Archbishop Tutu and other world leaders, echoing their call to allow LGBTI people to live in peace in Uganda."
On Wednesday, Simon Lokodo – the Ugandan Minister of Ethics and Integrity – announced a "ban" on 38 human rights organizations for "promoting homosexuality" and "threatening the traditions and values of the country." The ban came two days after he ordered a raid of an LGBTI rights workshop in Kampala.
Fr. Lokodo's actions violate the Ugandan constitution as well as Uganda's international obligations to respect freedom of association, assembly and expression under the African Charter for Human and Peoples' Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Worse, the ban and raid represent a broader pattern of suppression of civil society in the country.
Last week, the country's Anglican Archbishop joined other Christian leaders in calling on the Ugandan parliament to speedily pass the now infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The Bill, which includes the draconian provision of the death penalty and mandatory reporting of LGBTI people, would also criminalize advocacy organizations and even clergy for speaking up for LGBTI people in Uganda.
"Uganda's efforts to enshrine homophobia in law could ignite a chain reaction through governments worldwide, putting the rights and safety of LGBTI people and their advocates in danger," warned Kerry Kennedy, President of the RFK Center. "The Nobel Laureates' concern is a direct response to those, who misappropriate cultural values to justify a growing attack on human rights."
The trend of institutionalizing discrimination against LGBTI people has in fact reached other countries. Efforts are underway to further criminalize LGBTI people in Sub-Saharan Africa, and Russia is working to implement its own "propaganda" laws criminalizing speech supporting and advocating for LGBTI rights. See the Statement of Concern on Violence and Discrimination against LGBTI People, below and attached. Also available in German.
As a global community of individuals dedicated to a more peaceful and just world, we wish to express our grave concern as to how our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) brothers and sisters are being treated across the globe.
Collectively we represent a diverse array of countries and cultures. Today more than ever, we wish to express that the same cultural values, which have fostered and supported our lifelong quests for peace, also command us to speak out against the violence and discrimination our fellow human beings are enduring every day solely because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex.
In many of our countries the influence of colonial era laws still makes outlaws of LGBTI people. Recent legislative efforts like those underway in Russia and Uganda could pose even more sinister sanctions on LGBTI people as well their allies, ourselves included. The criminalization of adult, consensual homosexuality in any form is unacceptable. And, we must remain vigilant even in countries that rightly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, to ensure that LGBTI citizens are effectively protected from the hatred and bigotry that persists.
By expressing our solidarity with LGBTI people around the world, we recognize the inherent dignity and human rights of all individuals, without prejudice or intolerance, and we take an important step forward in our collective journey toward peace.
In the universal spirit of compassion and unity,
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Professor Jody Williams
Dr. Shirin Ebadi
Professor Muhammad Yunus
Deutsche Übersetzung von Sandra-Isabell Trautner mit Erlaubnis der stiftung “Robert F. Kennedy”.