U.S. Pressure Against Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill Rises as Ugandan, American Human Rights Activists Testify Before Congress

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Ugandan and American human rights activists came together today to testify against the proposed Uganda “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” at a hearing of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. Congress. The hearing is the latest in a series of actions by the U.S. government to signal its disapproval of the measure under consideration in the Ugandan parliament.

The “Anti-Homosexuality Bill,” introduced in the Ugandan parliament last October, would increase the penalty for “same sex sexual acts” to life in prison, limit the distribution of information on HIV through a provision criminalizing the “promotion of homosexuality,” and establish the crime of “aggravated homosexuality” punishable by death for anyone in Uganda who is HIV positive and has consensual same-sex relations. Further, the bill includes a provision that could lead to the imprisonment for up to three years of anyone who fails to report within 24 hours the identities of everyone they know who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender to the government.

“The bill does not only affect homosexual Ugandans, it affects all Ugandans,” said American Jewish World Service (AJWS) grantee Julius Kaggwa, a leader of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law in Uganda. “We believe that the character of our country, and of the rights afforded its citizens is at stake.”

In addition to Kaggwa, witnesses at the hearing included Deputy Assistant Secretary Karl Wycoff (U.S. Department of State), Cary Alan Johnson (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission), Reverend Kapya Kaoma (Political Research Associates) and Christine Lubinski (HIV Medicine Association, Infectious Diseases Society of America).

“Ensuring human rights for sexual minorities is perhaps the truest barometer of the full integration of human rights principles in a society, because their enshrinement in law and integration into societal norms and practices are not always a matter of popular opinion,” said Cary Alan Johnson of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

The Uganda bill is part of a disturbing trend on the continent and worldwide. In the last three years, five African countries have moved to strengthen criminal penalties against LGBT people. In addition to human rights and global health groups, a large number of U.S. faith groups have spoken out in opposition to the bill, including Catholic, Evangelical, mainline Protestant and Jewish organizations. The timing for a parliamentary vote on the legislation in Ugandan is unclear as international outcry over the bill has created divisions among its supporters in the country.

“Stigma already poses a formidable barrier to HIV services for persons living with or at risk of HIV in Uganda and elsewhere in southern Africa. This law, if enacted, would render every person with HIV a potential criminal,” said Christine Lubinski, director of the Center for Global Health Policy and vice president for global health at the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Added Lubinski: “Passage of this law will make the continuing AIDS crisis in Uganda even worse. Knowledge of HIV status is one of the foundations of HIV prevention, but this law will make Ugandans even more reticent to be tested for HIV infection, to ask candid questions about their HIV risks, or to access HIV care if they do discover they are infected.”

To receive copies of testimony form witnesses or a copy of the interfaith letter signed by 46 religious leaders against the Uganda bill, please contact: Amanda Cary at acary@ajws.org

About American Jewish World Service

American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is an international development organization motivated by Judaism’s imperative to pursue justice. AJWS is dedicated to alleviating poverty, hunger and disease among the people of the developing world regardless of race, religion or nationality. Through grants to grassroots organizations, volunteer service, advocacy and education, AJWS fosters civil society, sustainable development and human rights for all people, while promoting the values and responsibilities of global citizenship within the Jewish community.

Source: American Jewish World Service

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