Dear Ambassador Rugunda:
We are writing to express concern about legislation that would severely restrict the rights of Ugandan citizens, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and their defenders, in direct contravention of domestic and international law. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 would not only reaffirm penalties for homosexuality, but would criminalize the “promotion of homosexuality,” including funding and sponsoring LGBT organizations and broadcasting, publishing, or marketing materials on homosexuality. Any person in authority who fails to report known violations of the law within 24 hours will also be subject to a significant fine and up to 3 years in prison – even when this means turning in their colleagues, family, or friends.
The Bill’s draconian restrictions would not only restrict the rights of LGBT Ugandans. It would undermine the free association and expression that are necessary for a flourishing civil society, and create a climate of fear and hostility that undermines the citizenship and solidarity of all Ugandans. It would lend itself to misapplication and abuse, and would implicitly encourage persecution of LGBT people by private actors. Effective HIV prevention activities in Uganda, which rely on an ability to talk frankly about sexuality and provide condoms and other safer-sex materials, would be difficult, if not impossible.
These concerns, expressed most forcefully by human rights defenders and civil society groups in Uganda, have been echoed by critics as diverse as Exodus International, the governments of the United States and France, the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights, and Former President of Botswana Festus Mogae.
The Ugandan Constitution clearly states and affirms that all Ugandans share rights to privacy, expression, and association that this legislation would infringe upon. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill is inconsistent with National Objective 5(2) of the Ugandan Constitution, which provides that “the State shall guarantee and respect the independence of non-governmental organizations which protect and promote human rights.” Moreover, it directly contravenes the rights to equality and freedom from discrimination (Article 21), privacy (Article 27), and freedoms of speech, expression, association, and assembly (Article 29), the protection of minorities (Article 36), and the protection of civic rights and activities (Article 38) to which all Ugandans are entitled. It also violates the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and other international human rights treaties to which Uganda is a party.
This bill undermines Uganda’s commitment to the international human rights regime. In accordance to its obligations under international law, Uganda cannot withdraw from the obligations imposed by the treaties that it has freely entered to.
The Bill’s revocation of fundamental rights would also seriously undermine the country’s reputation and credibility in the international arena. Because it claims jurisdiction over Ugandans who violate its provisions while outside of the country and seeks to withdraw Uganda from its treaty obligations, the Bill will unavoidably strain Uganda’s relations with regional and international partners. In opposing the Bill, foreign governments are not demanding that Uganda “support” homosexuality; rather, they are asking that the government respect the privacy and basic freedoms guaranteed to all Ugandans under domestic and international law.
In recognition of the importance of a diverse, dynamic civil society and the domestic and international commitments that Uganda has made, we urge you, as country representative to the United Nations, to call on the Ugandan state to swiftly withdraw the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 and reaffirm the rights and responsibilities of all Ugandans.
African Services Committee, NY
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
ACT UP Philadelphia
Advocates for Youth, Washington D.C.
Amnesty International USA
Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP), USA
COLOURS Organization, PA
Global Justice Ministry of Metropolitan Community Churches, NY
Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD), NY
Health GAP (Global Access Project), USA
Human Rights Watch
International Federation of Black Prides (IFBP), USA
National Center for Lesbian Rights, USA
Proyecto SOL Filadelfia, PA
The Council for Global Equality, Washington D.C.