Friday, November 20, 2009

Ex-African Presidents Challenge Museveni


Festus G. Mogae
Telephone: + 267-3914071/3914082 Fax: + 267-3914097
Plot No. 115, Unit 4 Millenium Park Kgale Mews GABORONE

October 30, 2009


His Excellency, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni President of the Republic of Uganda
State House Nakasero
P.O. Box 24594
Kampala, Uganda

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the Champions for an HIV -Free Generation, I send you warmest greetings and best wishes.

We, the Champions for an HlV-Free Generation, are on a mission to exchange ideas and encourage stronger and more visionary leadership in response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic in Sub Saharan Africa. Our mandate is to promote key policy, legal, cultural and behavioral practices, as well as messages that help accelerate the social outcomes needed to achieve an HIV-free generation.

The first is a draft Bill, the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009,” recently introduced by a private member’s motion in the Parliament of the Republic of Uganda. Among the most disturbing provisions of the bill are: Incarceration for any person convicted of ”homosexuality”; a sentencing of death for anyone with HIV convicted of ”aggravated homosexuality”; incarceration for “promotion of homosexuality”; criminal penalties that apply to citizens and permanent residents living outside of Uganda; and declaring null and void any “international legal instrument whose provisions are contradictory to the spirit and provisions enshrined in this Act:”

The second Bill that has come to our attention is the draft “‘HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Bill,” currently under debate in the Uganda Law Reform Commission. Many positive aspects of the bill exist, including provisions against discrimination of people with HIV and AIDS in schools and at places of work. However, one provision of the Bill stipulates incarceration for offenses related to the “breach of safe practices of HIV prevention.”

Your Excellency, we respectfully express our concern at the provisions referenced in these two Bills and fear that passage of such legislation, which deviates from international best practice and recommendations, could lead to increased stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS and the groups most vulnerable to the epidemic.

The 2001 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) Declaration of Commitment on HIV and AIDS, adopted by all UN Member Stares, emphasized the importance of addressing the needs of those “at the greatest risk of, and most vulnerable to, new infection as indicated by such factors as … sexual practices.” At the 2006 High Level Meeting on AIDS, the Member States reiterated their commitment underlying the need for “full and active participation of vulnerable groups … and to eliminate all forms of discrimination against them … while respecting their privacy and confidentiality.” Furthermore, assessments conducted by UNAIDS for the General Assembly have confirmed that stigma, discrimination and criminalization faced by men who have sex with men are major barriers to the movement for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

UNAIDS has recommended that governments respect, protect and fulfill the rights of men who have sex with men and address stigma and discrimination in society and in the workplace by amending laws prohibiting sexual acts between consenting adults in private, enforcing anti-discrimination, and promoting programmes for men who have sex with men who may be especially vulnerable to HIV infection.

With respect to the “HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Bill”, UNAIDS and other international best practices recommend against HIV -specific criminal laws, laws directly mandating disclosure of HIV status, and other laws which are counterproductive to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support efforts, or which violate the human rights of people living with HIV. Inappropriate or overly­ broad application of criminal law to HIV transmission creates a real risk of increasing stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV, thus driving them further away from HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services.

Your Excellency, the Champions for an HIV-Free Generation believe that positive action by both government and individual leaders of stature, like yourself, can help create environments that promote HIV prevention efforts and behaviour change. We humbly ask that you take action to halt the harmful provisions in the draft Bills cited in this letter, and by doing so, preserve the rights of all Ugandans.

Yours Sincerely

Mr. Festus G. Mogae

Chairman of the Champions for an HIV-Free Generation and Former President of the Republic of Botswana

Copied To:
(a) The Champions: Their Excellencies: Kenneth Kaunda, Joaquim Chissano and Benjamin Mkapa; His Grace, Desmond Tutu; Dr. Speciosa Wandira; Justice Edwin Cameron; Prof. Miriam Were and Ms. Liya Kebede

(b) Chairman, Uganda Law Reform Commission

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