Uganda – 2009 ‘Anti-Homosexuality’ Bill re-tabled in parliament – Statement from frontline defenders

On 7 February 2012, the ‘Anti-Homosexuality’ Bill proposed first in 2009 was re-tabled at a parliamentary session in Kampala. The Bill contains harsh provisions which, if introduced, wouldseverely limit the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly and would threaten the existence of human rights organisations working for sexual minorities issues as well as thesafety and freedom of human rights defenders — in addition to that of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people generally.

On 7 February 2012, David Bahati, a Ndwora West legislator, re-tabled the 2009 ‘Anti-Homosexuality’ Bill to the parliament’s agenda in Kampala. The Bill, one of ten bills re-tabled at thesession, was then sent to the committee stage. The Speaker presiding over the parliamentary session, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, reportedly asked that the committee scrutinise the Bill and return itto the parliament as soon as possible. It is reported that both government and opposition members of parliament clapped in support of the reintroduction of the Bill.

The 2009 ‘Anti-Homosexuality’ Bill is one of 22 bills which expired with the dissolution of the last parliament on 13 May 2011.

The Bill seeks to introduce new provisions into the penal code, criminalising any form of “promotion of homosexuality”. The provisions may be used to effectively ban the work of any humanrights organisations advocating for the protection of LGBTI people or, for example, addressing issues around sexuality in education. The Bill would also result in the serious impediment toeffective anti HIV-AIDS programmes. The Bill effectively prohibits any kind of community or political organising around sexuality in Uganda, criminalises advocacy and support for the rights ofhomosexual Ugandans, and prohibits any public discussion of homosexuality. It severely curtails the rights, protections and freedoms of LGBTI rights defenders and poses a risk to the widercommunity of human rights defenders in Uganda through its effect upon freedom of expression, conscience, association, and assembly, as well as internationally recognised protections againstdiscrimination.

The re-tabling of the Bill comes a few days after the first anniversary of the murder of prominent LGBTI rights defender David Kato, killed on 26 January 2011. His killer was eventually sentenced to 30 years in prison in November 2011. The murder followed a deterioration of the security situation for all LGBTI rights defenders in Uganda, who saw their names and photos repeatedly published together with threats in the media. The ‘Anti-Homosexuality’ Bill significantly contributed to this climate of insecurity.

Front Line Defenders reiterates its grave concern that the passing of the Bill would further hamper the work of human rights defenders and public health workers who work with lesbian, gay,bisexual, transgender or intersex people. Front Line Defenders is also concerned that political rhetoric and media coverage could incite further violence against human rights defenders working on LGBTI issues.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Uganda to:

Unconditionally reject the ‘Anti-Homosexuality’ Bill, as it would severely curtail the rights and freedoms of human rights defenders and their legitimate human rights work;
Provide security to those who defend the rights of LGBTI people and those who speak out against the Bill.
Guarantee that all human rights defenders in Uganda are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions includingjudicial harassment.

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