Ugandan ethics minister raids gay human rights conference
A Ugandan cabinet minister has raided a gay rights workshop held in a hotel outside Kampala.
Minister for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo, broke up the secret gay rights conference, burst into the gay rights meeting claiming the gathering was illegal.
The two week conference organised by Freedom and Roam Uganda, an association that lobbies for the recognition of same sex relationships in Uganda ended prematurely when the minister ordered them to vacate the building and threatened to use force against them.
This incident comes days after the reintroduction of a private members bill recently tabled in Parliament by David Bahati that seeks to punish "aggravated homosexuality," and originally proposed the death sentence for someone deemed to be a "serial offender." Although homosexuality is illegal under the penal code in Uganda, public assembly of gay persons is not a crime. This would change if Bahati's bill is signed into law.
Bisi Alimi, Kaleidoscope's regional spokesman for Africa, said:
"It's alarming and disappointing that Uganda's Parliament will once again consider the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. If passed, it would represent a grave assault on the human rights of all Ugandans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity."
The bill introduces draconian provisions on top of Uganda's existing prohibition on consensual same-sex relations, which already violates international norms.
It aims to criminalise the "promotion" of homosexuality, compels HIV testing in some circumstances, and imposes life sentences for entering into a same-sex marriage. It would also be an offence for a person who is aware of any violations of the bill's wide-ranging provisions not to report them to the authorities within 24 hours.
The bill would significantly hamper the work of human rights defenders and others who find themselves in conflict with the law merely by carrying out their legitimate activities.
Kaleidoscope's spokesperson Reverend Ijeoma Ajibade, said:
"The knock-on effect of passing this bill would reach far beyond gay and lesbian people in Uganda, impeding the legitimate work of civil society, public health professionals, community leaders and the pastoral work of churches.
"This deplorable bill would not only violate the rights of Ugandans to life, to non-discrimination, to equality before the law, and to privacy, but would sanction hatred, violence and the persecution of a group of people based on whom they love alone.
"We strongly urge the Ugandan Parliament to reject this bill in its entirety. It must not legislate hate."
At the bill's reintroduction, the Speaker informed the House that the bill would not need to be considered again by the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, raising fears that it could be passed into law imminently.
Uganda has previously sought to be a leader in human rights, establishing one of the first National Human Rights Institutions in the region, providing from its people UN experts on human rights, including the current expert on Human Rights Defenders and has acted to advocate for and promote the rights of women. The principle of universality at the heart of human rights must be followed through in practice not just words: the government must unequivocally condemn this poisonous Bill which not promises only further to criminalize those already persecuted by the law but those close to them too and commits to withdrawing from other international human rights commitments. Its implications are wide and will impact on all Ugandans.
Ugandan and international human rights organisations, have repeatedly called for the bill to be scrapped since it was first introduced in October 2009.
In recent years human rights organisations have documented cases of discrimination, arbitrary arrest, unlawful detention, and mistreatment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in Uganda, and against activists exposing violations against the gay community.
Last year on January 26, the Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato was murdered in his home. A man was subsequently found guilty and sentenced for this crime, but the incident has caused significant fear within the gay community. David Kato had been calling for the authorities to take action to end discrimination against gay people in Uganda.