Friday, December 16, 2011

Buganda Road Court Grade One Magistrate Patrick Wekesa yesterday ruled that the four pastors who accused Pastor Robert Kayanja of sodomy have a case to answer.

The quartet, Solomon Male of Arising for Christ, Martin Sempa of Makerere Christian Centre, Robert Kayiira and Michael Kyazze of Omega Healing Ministries are jointly charged with Ms Dorothy Kyomuhendo, former State House aide, and artiste David Mukalazi.

The accused persons have been witnesses and accusers of Pastor Kayanja over allegations that he sodomised a member of his Rubaga Miracle Centre cathedral.

Magistrate Wekesa held: “Investigations yielded contrary results but the accused persons are hereby put on defence. You are free to make sworn statements but you be warned that if you do so, you will be cross-examined.”

He ruled after the state closed its case with 21 witnesses having testified in the controversial case whose trial started in January.

However, yesterday’s proceedings were laced with drama after Mr Wekesa declined to hear an application by lawyers representing the four pastors, describing their submissions as “nonsense and rubbish.”

Mr Wekesa’s statement was prompted by Mr Kato Sekabanja’s request to make an application before the ruling of no-case-to-answer in the sodomy trial. The magistrate, who threatened to throw Mr Sekabanja out of court, said: “No, no! no, keep quiet; you are talking nonsense, I want to deliver my ruling. Sit down.”
He, however, later directed Mr Sekabanja to make the application on December 19.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

East Africa dares UK on homosexuality

Zanzibar President Ali Mohammed Shein argues, “Changing the law simply because we need aid is next to impossible. We have our values….That is not acceptable; we would rather do without it.”

Dar es salaam. Tanzania, Zanzibar, and other East African states have said they will not accept overtures from United Kingdom to grant legal rights to homosexuality.

Zanzibar President Ali Mohammed Shein on Thursday said his government will not abide by demands from Britain to introduce laws to protect members of the gay community.

“That is an issue not acceptable in this society and we are not going to amend or introduce any laws to grant such rights,” Shein told journalists.

The Zanzibar President spoke on a day that Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Mr Bernard Membe and his Gender, Children and Community Development counterpart, Ms Sophia Simba, spoke strongly against the UK’s push for the common wealth to officially embrace gays.

Like Dr Shein, the two ministers said Tanzania will not yield or succumb to pressure of any kind following UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s threats to cut development aid to countries that did not recognise gay rights.
“Changing the law simply because we need aid is next to impossible. We have our values. That is not acceptable; we would rather do without it,” declared Dr Shein.

The Zanzibar President was speaking at a meeting in State House during a wide ranging interview during which he gave an overview of his administration’s performance in the one year of Zanzibar’s Government of National Unity.
In Dar es Salaam, Mr Membe, said Tanzania will not listen to any country that tried to influence its decisions regarding whether to accept the unnatural sex relations.
Share This Story

“We have our own culture and it should be known and understood that we shall not receive any command from anywhere using whatever sanctions to undermine our way of living. UK should understand this,” the minister said at a press conference in his office.

It was the first major statement by the State following recent remarks attributed to Mr Cameron, who was quoted as threatening aid cuts to countries that continue to ban the practice which has taken root mainly in the western world. The UK position was raised informally during the recent meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of State in Perth, Australia. President Jakaya Kikwete and Mr Membe represented Tanzania.

On Wednesday, Mr Membe termed as “dangerous,” the move by UK to tie aid to the gay issue.

UK’s Queen Elizabeth II is the custodian of common wealth club comprising 54 states that were formally colonised by Britain. It was reported that during the Perth meeting, only 13 countries were receptive of the Cameron advances.
Kenya and Uganda have also voiced opposition on the same matter. Officials in these countries said they would rather miss aid than approve gay movement.

Monday, October 31, 2011

UK Premier threatens to suspend aid over anti-gay Bill

By Richard Wanambwa


United Kingdom has warned countries that have banned homosexuality, saying UK aid to such nations is likely to end if such discrimination is not checked. Uganda being inclusive on the list of nations that have or intend to ban homosexuality stand to lose the annual foreign aid from UK.

During his tenure in office as UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown announced Britain’s aid amounting to 70 million pounds each year for a period of 10 years which would stand at 700 million pounds. But David Cameron has threatened to withhold aid from governments that do not reform legislation banning homosexuality.

The UK prime minister said he raised the issue with some of the states at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia. “Britain is one of the premier aid givers in the world. We want to see countries that receive our aid adhering to proper human rights. It is one of the things that determine our aid policy, and there have been particularly bad examples where we have taken action,” Mr Cameron said.

Human rights reform in the Commonwealth was one of the issues that leaders failed to agree upon at the summit. Mr Cameron said those receiving UK aid should “adhere to proper human rights”. Ending the ban on homosexuality was one of the recommendations of an internal report into the future relevance of the Commonwealth.

Mr Cameron’s threat applies only to one type of bilateral aid known as general budget support, and would not reduce the overall amount of aid to any one country. Malawi has already had some of its budget support suspended over concerns about its attitude to gay rights.

No pressure
Concerns have also been raised with the governments of Uganda and Ghana. But he conceded that countries could not change immediately, and cautioned that there would be a “journey”. “This is an issue where we are pushing for movement; we are prepared to put some money behind what we believe in. But I am afraid that you can’t expect countries to change overnight,” he said.

Cameron said he had spoken with a number of African countries and that more pressure had been applied by Foreign Secretary William Hague, who deputised him during parts of the summit. Some 41 nations within the 54-member Commonwealth have laws banning homosexuality. Many of these laws are a legacy of British Empire laws.

Malawi recently had £19m of its budget support suspended following various infractions including poor progress on human rights and media freedoms and concern over the government’s approach to gay rights.

The Bill to ban homosexuals in Parliament was brought forward by Ndorwa West MP David Bahati. However, midway, it raised controversy leading to both internal and external supporters of the gay rights to question Uganda’s interest in enacting such a law.

Mr Bahati, the mover of the Bill, was at one point locked out of the conference in America because of his perceived anti-gay stand. Information Minister Mary Karooro Okurut refused to comment on the issue while referring this paper to Fr. Simon Lokodo, the Minister of Ethics and Integrity whose mobile phone was switched off.

Ugandan MPs pass motion to retain Bills

By Alfred Wandera

Bills that were tabled in the Eighth Parliament but were not passed into laws will be saved and retained in the Ninth Parliament, thanks to the motion MPs approved last week.
The motion to save the 23 Bills was tabled in the House by the UPDF representative Sarah Mpabwa and seconded by Oyam North MP Krispus Ayena (UPC).

“Much as there are strong arguments advanced for the lapse of Parliament Bills upon dissolution of Parliament, these arguments should be applied with exception to the Bills before Parliament. Before a Bill is tabled in Parliament for first reading, it has been subjected to so many processes including consultations.

A lot of time and resources are committed to these bills at these stages, let alone the cost of publishing and gazetting them,” said Mpabwa in her motion.

She added: “We also know that the practice in most Parliaments is to save the Bills of the previous Parliament. It is for these reasons that this Parliament (Ninth) should find it fitting and proper that the bills of the Eighth Parliament are saved and considered by the relevant committees.”

Seconding the motion, Ayena said a lot of resources had been invested in the Bills, and argued that some of the Bills are based on common sense and therefore their importance ought not to be overemphasized.
Workers MP Sam Lyomoki moved an amendment to the motion saying Bills that had not been included in Mpabwa’s motion should not be left out.

Speaker Kadaga said there is no rule, as quoted by Mpabwa that says that a Bill lapses with the end of a session of Parliament.

Isingiro Woman MP Grace Byarugaba Isingoma said there should be an amendment to the rules of procedure to provide for automatic carrying forward of the Bills of the previous House without moving a motion.

Kadaga approved the idea and directed the chairman of the committee on Rules, Discipline and Privileges to consider the proposal.

The saving and retaining of the Bills of the Eighth Parliament gives a life line to some of the controversial draft legislations that drew heated debates from human rights activists and moralists like the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009 that was privately sponsored by Ndorwa West MP David Bahati.

Other Bills returning to the House are the Anti-money Laundering Bill, 2009; the Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Bill, 2007; the Regional Governments Bill, 2009; the Transfer of Convicted Offenders Bill, 2007; the Geographical Indications Bill, 2008; the Implementation of Government Assurances Bill, 2008; the Industrial Property Bill, 2009; the Chattels Securities Bill, 2009; the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010; the Plant Variety Protection Bill, 2010; the Plant Protection and Health Bill, 2010; the HIV/Aids Prevention and Control Bill, 2010; and the Uganda National Metrological Authority Bill, 2010.

Others are the Pharmacy Profession and Pharmacy Practice Bill, 2006; the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (Amendment) Bill, 2010; the National Council for Older Persons Bill, 2010; the National Council for Disability (Amendment) Bill, 2010; the Uganda Forestry Association Bill, 2010; the Retirement Benefits (Sector Liberalisation) Bill, 2011; and the Anti-Counterfeit Bill, 2011.

The handling of the Bills forms the core business of the House committees that scrutinize the draft laws before they tabled in Parliament for debate and final passing into laws.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Caught between a male personality and female body

By Yazid Yolisigira

Makutu village, about 30kms from Iganga town is quite popular because of one person, Nabirye,whose first name I later learn is Fauza. When you ask what is special about Nabirye, laughter follows as the person delves into explaining her double-gender - male and female. It is obviously very complicated to explain that the said Nabirye, could easily pass for a woman or man because she has two sexual organs. The dictionary word for people like her is hermaphrodite.

In Busoga culture, the name Nabirye is often given to a woman who has given birth to twins. The parents of the 20-year-old, say that they named their child Nabirye because of her two sexual organs, an explanation other elders on the village concur with.

According to the father Mohamed Gadonya, Nabirye, the youngest of their seven children was born in 1989 at Makutu health centre III with two sexual organs. The male organ is said to be on the top and the female one below. Surprisingly, when urinating, both organs function.

“After normal delivery, the nurse told us that the baby had two organs. She then advised us to go to Iganga hospital for consultations, possibly for an operation to remove one organ. But when we came back home to mobilise money, my mother refused, claiming that her grandchild was going to die in the process. We abandoned the plans to take her back to hospital,” says Mr Gadonya.

It was on that day that they named the child Nabirye. “ The three of us resolved to keep it a secret, but when he went to school posing as a female, one of his school mates noticed the male organ while in the female urinal, then the whole village came to know,” says the father.

Nabirye’s mother, Fatina says he has never suffered any serious illness since his childhood. According to her, the child was like other children.
Share This Story

He went to school at Makutu Primary School from 1997 to 2006 where he completed primary level.
In 2007, he joined Bunalweni Hillside Mission for secondary education. “When he was there, the teachers liked him very much because he was a footballer and a musician. He passed O’ level with good grades, but I couldn’t afford to take him to the next level,” Mr Gadonya, a peasant farmer narrates in a low tone.

Meeting Nabirye
I reached the Gadonya’s home at around 10am and when I asked for Nabirye, they told me he had gone to the farm with his wife. After interviewing the parents, they asked one of the children to accompany me to the farm where the couple had gone. Fortunately, as we were on our way there, the two returned.

Nabirye, who I had learnt had a wife and two month’s old baby, dressed in a blouse and a skirt was carrying a hand hoe on his shoulders while the wife, also dressed in a blouse and a skirt, had their child on her back.

His appearance is very confusing. He looks like a woman and wears a bra for his big breasts and yet has short hair like a man.
As Nabirye’s father introduced me to the couple as a journalist, his wife picked a jerrycan and ran away to the water source laughing.

Nabirye who is a businessman trading in farm produce asked me to wait until “he” finished up with his customers who were selling maize to him.

After ten minutes he settled down, laughing and asking what exactly I wanted.

On asking whether it was true that he bears two sexual organs, he affirmed, talking very freely in a soft female voice.

“Yes I have. God created me wrongly, but I am happy. I don’t feel hurt about my appearance because that is how I was created and will never change. I socialise freely in the community and people like me very much. That wife you have seen knows everything and loves me,” he explained.

He says that he only suffered discrimination at secondary school for a short while, but later the students grew to appreciate him. He boasts that he even got into a relationship.

From Senior two, many girls started falling for him because of his appearance vis-à-vis his talent in playing football and leading the school music choir.

“I was a good goalkeeper. I started wearing skirts in my childhood and even when in the goal post, I used to wear my skirt with shorts inside. To fellow students, it looked funny, but I had nothing to do. The opponents hardly scored a goal against my team and that is why the teachers liked me so much. It was also as a result of this that many girls fell in love with me.”

One of his former teachers at Bunalweni Hillside Mission acknowledged that Nabirye was a very talented student. The teacher recalls the time when Nabirye as a striker, scored the winning goal in a match against Green Hill School in Iganga.

To earn a living, he trades in farm produce. He rides a bicycle to different villages looking for maize, coffee, beans, rice and other farm produce which he sells to manage his family.

Although Nabirye denies having other children, there are claims in the village that he has twins which he got after impregnating one of the girls in the village when he was still at school.

He however dismisses the allegations saying that he introduced that girl to his friend, a one Sadat who impregnated her. But Sadat and his parents denied responsibility of the twins claiming that they were for Nabirye. They went to the office of the district probation officer and resolved to go for a DNA test. According to the probation officer Daniel Nyende, the results showed that the twins were not fathered by Nabirye. Nonetheless, Nabirye who no stranger to talk in the village lives a contented life with his family. He has accepted himself and learnt how to live an ordinary life as a husband.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

UK Chogm delegates ask Uganda to resist gay push


A British Christian pressure group has asked African, Caribbean and Asian nations to oppose a motion to legalise homosexuality at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting slated for next week in Australian city of Perth.

The motion, tabled by Australian delegate Michael Kirby, will be supported by the UK delegation.

Mr Stephen Green, the director of Christian Voice, said: “Across the West, homosexual rights is now mainstream in every political party and is promoted by the public sector. The Church is fighting a rear-guard action in nations such as Australia and the UK, and few are found who will support those countries in the world where homosexual acts are rightly against the law.”

Mr Green said sex tourism is already a problem in African, Asian and Caribbean nations.

“Legalising sodomy and other obscene homosexual practices would make matters even worse. Young people across the world deserve to be protected from the moral and physical dangers of homosexual activity,” Mr Green said.

‘Neo-colonialists imposition’
According to the activist, the last thing Uganda needs is the neo-colonialist imposition of homosexuality from countries such as Britain, whose society is described as ‘broken’ even by our own Prime Minister.

The activists say PM David Cameron’s obsession with homosexuality to the extent of promoting gay marriage and using foreign aid to export Western depravity.

Mr Green asked the churches of Uganda to come together and pray for their delegations to Chogm and for righteousness to flow as a river in Uganda to the glory of God.

This year Cabinet threw out the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 on the advice of Mr Adolf Mwesige, the ruling party lawyer, saying the Bill was unnecessary since government has a number of laws in place that criminalise homosexual activities.

But Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, the architect of the Bill, insists the proposed legislation is a property of Parliament and that the Executive should stop “playing hide-and-seek games” on the matter.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Uganda’s first openly gay bar, Sappho Islands closed down last Sunday after just over a year in operation.

Jacqueline Kasha the Ugandan LGBTI activist who was instrumental in setting up Sappho Islands told behind the Mask in Kampala that she is determined to open another one soon.

The bar was reportedly closed down because the landlady complained about the appearance of revellers who frequented the venue. The seemingly spooked landlady was quoted as saying, “The bar brings people who look strange.”

The closure of the bar continues to highlight Uganda’s homophobic tendencies. Many people are denied rental accommodation because of their suspected or actual sexual orientation.

Kasha, the leader of human rights group Freedom and Roam Uganda, said on Wednesday in Kampala that the closure of Sappho Island arising from complaints by the landlady would not stop gays from having a social life in Uganda and promised a new bar would be opened.

Kasha said “The closure of Sappho doesn’t mean it’s the end of us having a social space. The way I managed to open Sappho in the first place is the way I will open it up elsewhere.”

She said she was not giving up on her dream of creating a social space for the LGBTI community.

A defiant Kasha said, “More than ever I am very determined. The next one will be bigger and even better. It’s one way of intimidating us but we shall overcome.”

Sappho Island was situated in Ntinda, a middle class Kampala neighbourhood. When BTM visited the place on Wednesday afternoon, there were sign posts advertising for new tenants to come and occupy the premises.

Once a lively and cordial welcoming hide out with immense ambience, Sappho now rests in ruins. The grass thatched hut has been pulled down to make way for new tenants. The entrance gate is closed.

But the Sappho Island rainbow coloured signpost continued to mark the entrance.

Until last Sunday the bar was one of the best known hang out spots for Uganda’s gay community and provided a focal point for the community. It was here for example murdered LGBTI activist David Kato’s funeral party set out from. According to a BBC report filed last year it was “where gay people feel safe, where they can be themselves.”

The closure of Sappho Island also highlights the fear among some Ugandans created by the Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009 in which every person is meant to report a suspected gay person within 24 hours.

Although the bill has stalled in Uganda’s Parliament, many Ugandans who are not keenly following the development of the bill, think the proposed bill is already law and enhances their earlier homophobic tendencies


Uganda’s Constitutional Court on Monday October 3 heard a petition filed by local LGBTI activists challenging a law that bars homosexuals from employment and accessing equal opportunities. Activist Adrian Jjuko, who is also the Executive Director of Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), petitioned the court two years ago asking it to nullify section 15(6) d of the Equal Opportunities Commission Act 2007.

The section states that the “Commission shall not investigate any matter involving behaviour which is considered to be immoral and socially harmful; or unacceptable by the majority of the cultural and social communities in Uganda.”

While homosexuals are not mentioned by name as one of the groups in the Act, during the debate to pass the law, the Parliamentary Hansard of December 12, 2006, records Ms Syda Bbumba, the former Finance Minister saying homosexuals should be targeted using the disputed clause. She was supported by other legislators.

Ms Bbumba was reported saying, “It is very important that we include that clause. This is because the homosexuals and the like have managed to forge their way through in other countries by identifying with minorities,”

It is this clause that gay rights activists are disputing in the case. They say that amongst other things, the Commission is tasked with ensuring that all Ugandans have access to equal opportunities, irrespective of tribe, religion, political opinion, race or any other such considerations.

The petition was heard by five judges of the Constitutional Court led by deputy chief justice Alice Mpagi Bahigeine. The other judges are Steven Kavuma, Arach Amoko, Remmy Kasule and Constance Byamugisha.

In the respondent’s submission, the Attorney General maintained that such a law was necessary and justified under Ugandan constitution. Ladislus Rwakafuzi, a Kampala gay friendly lawyer is representing Mr Jjuko.

Minorities are not defined in the Constitution of Uganda. However, vulnerable groups have been defined in the National Equal Opportunities Policy of 2006 as categories of people who lack security and susceptible to risk.

Mr Jjuko maintains that that such a law was not good for human rights in Uganda, and called on all activists to stand and defend the rights of minority groups in Uganda.

Rwakafuzi said his client wants the section of the law declared unconstitutional. A date for the ruling will be set by the court.

Uganda’s judiciary has in the past shown some level of independence when handling matters brought by groups advocating for homosexuals. One of the judges handling this petition also faulted government in another case in which local village officials and the police intruded the privacy of LGBTI activist, Victor Mukasa and searched his home allegedly to find evidence of homosexuality.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


The Professor Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize (Raftostiftelsen) is a human rights award established in the memory of the Norwegian human right activist, Thorolf Rafto.

A press release issued Thursday by the official Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website said SMUG, under the leadership of Mr Frank Mugisha, had played an important role to stop the controversial Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009 from being passed by Ugandan Parliament.

Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said, “I would like to congratulate Sexual Minorities Uganda on winning this important prize. It is a recognition of SMUG’s courageous efforts to promote the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Uganda.”

Norway’s Minister for the Environment and International Development Erik Solheim added, “We see this as a tribute to all those who dare to stand up against the discrimination and hate crime sexual minorities are often subjected to. SMUG is working to dispel myths and prejudice so that, in the long term, society will realise that human rights are for all.”

On a number of occasions Norway has raised the issue of the situation of sexual minorities with the Ugandan authorities, including in talks between President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni and Mr Støre.

Mr Mugisha told Behind the Mask in Kampala that he was excited about the prize. He said, “Although the work of speaking against injustices to homosexuals is not recognized in Uganda, it is receiving attention internationally. That’s why Uganda should be proud of us for speaking out against injustices. This prize is not only given to LGBTI activists, it is recognition across sectors.”

He said the award would offer “Protection because of the international high profile it brings with it”. He said SMUG deserved the award because it has come along way defending minority groups.

Mr Mugisha recently won the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award created by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial in 1984 to honour individuals around the world who show courage and have made a significant contribution to human rights in their country.

The Rafto prize is awarded annually by the Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, which was founded in the humanistic tradition of the Helsinki Accords in order to promote the fundamental human rights of intellectual and political freedom.

Today, the foundation is based at the Human Rights House in Bergen, Norway. The major work of the foundation, including the organization of the award ceremony is done by a small team of professional staff and volunteers. The award ceremony takes place at Den Nationale Scene in Bergen annually in November.

The initial idea of the Rafto Prize was to provide a basic informative platform for the laureates that would help to receive further attention from the international media and support from political and non-political organisations.

By awarding the Rafto Prize, the Rafto Foundation for Human Rights seeks to bring attention to independent voices that due to oppressive and corruptive regimes are not always heard. For example, four Rafto Laureates have subsequently received further international assistance and were subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. They are Aung San Suu Kyi, Jose Ramos-Horta, Kim Dae-Jung and Shirin Ebadi.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Uganda posts dismal record on human rights scorecard

By Victor Bwire

Finally, Uganda submitted its human rights report to the UN Human Rights Council after failing to meet the July 4, 2011 deadline and causing anxiety as to whether the State was going to participate in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) or not. So far, it is only South Africa that has failed to submit its state report globally.

The submission of the government of Uganda report sets the stage for the country’s review by peers in October in Geneva before the UN Human Rights Council. The process aims to establish how far Uganda has implemented its human rights obligations as required by the UN. The review will be conducted by all the 47 member states of the Human Rights Council with other states participating as observer states.

When Uganda takes to the stage at the Human Rights Council working session in Geneva in October, it is expected to explain, in a three hour session, what steps it has taken in fulfilling its international human rights obligations and what intentions it has in improving the same. The UPR in analysing each country’s human rights situation relies on the report prepared by the State being reviewed, the UN office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other non-state actors. Nearly 27 organisations submitted reports on Uganda ahead of the review.

Stakeholders have already identified several weaknesses with the report in terms of concrete measures and actions the government has taken or intends to take to rectify the violation of fundamental human rights that have occurred in the country.

Lingering queries
Human Rights members and stakeholders are likely to raise the issue of lack of an independent judiciary, as seen in the government’s failure to honour court decisions including retaining the sedition law even after the Court declared it null and void, the intention to introduce the Public Order Management Bill 2009, use of military courts on civilians, long period time suspects spent in pre-trial detention, lack of legal representation, overcrowding and congestion in detention places, that the Rapid Response Unit detained people without charge and extracted confessions through by torture and why the Government is reluctant to establish a truth commission.

The government gives very flimsy reasons for retaining laws that criminalise sexual relationships between same-sex consenting adults including public mood and morality and ignoring the respect for human rights of the parties concerned. While the government recently passed regulations to guide the implementation of the Access to Information Act, there still exist a number of laws that hindered access to information and press freedom which the Government report is silent on.

Such laws include Penal Code Act, which still criminalised materials alleged to be seditious, sectarian and defamatory, and the Anti-Terrorism Act 2002, which prohibits “promoting” terrorism but did not expressly define those acts which constituted the promotion of terrorism.

The retention of the Media Offences Department within the police force charged with the responsibility of undertaking daily monitoring of the media with the resultant crease in the number of journalists criminally charged, assaulted and having their equipment seized is an issue that the government must be ready to provide answers to.

Government interference in the operations of non-governmental organisations especially the stringent registration process will come up during the review. The actions against members of the opposition whenever they plan public events will obviously be raised and what intention the government has to remedy the situation raised. Of particular concern will be the intention behind the government-proposed bill on Public Order Management, which stakeholders say could further imperil the right of freedom of assembly.

ARTICLE 19 in its submission to the UN had stated that freedom of expression was unjustly restricted by provisions in the Ugandan Penal Code, the Press and Journalist Act 1995, the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2002, and the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act 2010, the Electronic Media Act 1996 provided the Broadcasting Council with excessively broad powers and disregarded due process. The Government report did not address these concerns .The State will also be put to task to explain what measures it is taking to address general insecurity in the country.

The UPR is a process that brings objectivity and transparency in the analysis of human rights situations. Since no State likes to be blamed by the world community for failure to heed generally international standards, the UPR becomes an important tool of a world policy for the protection of human rights.

Through this process, citizens are able to monitor their government’s performance in human rights. Countries that are eager to have a positive balance sheet in the field of human rights will carefully evaluate any recommendations which have been addressed to them at the review, seeking to remedy any deficiencies to the greatest extent possible. Commitments that Uganda makes this October will form the basis of its human rights agenda for the next four years, when it will be time for another review in the world stage.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Parents launch bid to pass shelved gays Bill

Parents under the Family Life Network and Uganda Coalition for Moral Values (UCMV) have opened a fresh campaign to force the government abandon economic and foreign policy considerations and pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009.

Mobilising under the ‘Uganda National Parents Network,’ the “Pass the BILL Now Campaign” the parents addressed journalists in Kampala yesterday and outlined their course of action, following revelations lately that Cabinet had abandoned the bill owing to international pressure from donor countries.

“We urge you to do what is right even if it is not politically correct. Remember that your first obligation and loyalty should be to the citizens of Uganda and our children who are our future,” they urged government in a statement signed by Mr Steven Langa, the executive director Family Life Network.

“We ask you not to betray and abandon the parents who voted you into public office. Remember that is the Ugandans who elected you and not donors or foreign governments,” the statement added, noting that Uganda should make friends with nations that share common values. The parents called for formation of an African coalition with common cultural norms and values.

Mr Langa noted that they were dismayed to read in the press that Cabinet had succumbed to international pressure to drop the Bill. Mr David Bahati, the Ndorwa West MP, was the brainchild behind the private member’s Bill that eventually became a thorn in government’s foreign policy as donors opposed it.

“We sound a serious warning that we will recall any MP who betrays our children, our people and our nation,” Mr Langa warned, promising that parents would be organised for recall of MPs who betray this cause.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Uganda’s Cabinet and Parliament At Odds Over Anti-gay Bill

Posted on August 22nd, 2011 by Warren

Today, in the face of reports that Uganda’s Cabinet tossed out the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, Parliament spokesperson, Helen Kawesa, said that the bill ”is in the Parliament now. It’s Parliament’s property.” She added the Cabinet ministers will “have to argue it out in the Parliament” since the bill is controlled by Parliament and has not yet had a vote.

Kawesa added, “If the Cabinet has issues with it, they will be brought in to the floor of the House.”

Currently, budget meetings are on the agenda but a budget is slated to get a vote by next Wednesday. After that, other business, including the anti-gay bill could be considered. As of now, according to Kawesa, there is no official action scheduled for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill but she said the bill could come up at any time after the budget has been passed.

In 2010, a Cabinet committee chaired by Adolf Mwesige called for removal of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and made recommendations to enforce existing law. Those recommendations were detailed in a report to Parliament. Many observers believed at the time that the bill had been shelved. However, the bill remained under the jurisdiction of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee. That committee then wrote a report recommending that the bill be passed. However, for reasons that remain unknown, the Parliament placed the bill on the daily agenda but then failed to act on the measure. Currently, the bill remains in the hands of Parliament and is one of several measures considered in the last session which is alive in this session.

Friday, July 29, 2011


A man who in 2009 renounced homosexuality at a public forum in Kampala has now told Behind the Mask that he regrets his previous actions and would like to be forgiven by the LGBTI community.

Saying that he felt “there is a fire in the belly saying gay is really who you are,” Mr George Oundo, known amongst Uganda’s LGBTI community as “Ms Georgina,” said that although he had renounced homosexuality on national media, at an opportune time he would ask the Kuchu community (Ugandan slang for LGBTI) to take him back.

Speaking on Wednesday July 27, 2011 to Behind the Mask outside the magistrate’s court in Kampala where three Christian evangelist preachers have been charged with making homophobic smears against a rival preacher, the now former ex-gay Oundo said he once again believed, “being gay is natural and inborn.”

The accused preachers, their lawyers, Henry Ddungu and David Kaggwa, together with David Mukalazi and Deborah Kyomuhendo (agents of the accused) face charges of conspiring to injure Pastor Robert Kayanja’s reputation by claiming that Kayanja sodomised boys in his church. The two lawyers are charged with allegedly commissioning false affidavits.

In March 2009 Oundo spoke at a Christian seminar and said he previously supported homophobic preacher Martin Sempa and legislator Mr David Bahati in their claims that homosexuals recruit children in schools and deserve the death penalty.

Speaking on Wednesday however, the now former ex-gay man said that he regrets the comments.

Looking sad, Mr Oundo, who once helped to establish an LGBTI human rights advocacy group in Kampala, said that although the preachers had given him some money and built him a house in Muyenga-Bukasa, a posh suburb of Kampala, he still had gay feelings. “I have never even become born again. I just do not want to be born again.”

He said the born again Christian anti-gay preachers had dumped him. “Can you imagine I have not been to any of their churches in the last one year?” he said.

Asked whether an interview with Behind the Mask would not cause him to be seen in a bad light by the born again community, Mr Oundo said he did not care what they believed.

However, when asked why he had come to court and was showing solidarity with Sempa and the other accused preachers, Mr Oundo said he had to be there as he had promised the three that he would see them through the trial.

Asked whether he does not feel he betrayed the Ugandan LGBTI community by making false allegations that almost saw the anti homosexuality bill 2009 passed into law, Mr Oundo said he “would understand and respect” people calling him a traitor.

Mr Oundo claimed back in March 2009 that donors gave him and fellow homosexuals “much money” and training abroad and that he would target mostly the needy children who had problems of tuition and pocket money and “others who like outings.”

During that occasion Oundo warned parents to know their children’s friends. Homosexuals, he added, were targeting mostly children “because they are easy to initiate and they like easy things.”

Oundo claimed then, that he got seriously involved in “promoting homosexuality” in 2003. “I was taken to Nairobi for training,” he said. “I used to supply pornographic materials in form of books and compact discs showing homosexuality to young boys in many schools.”

The training, he said, was facilitated by the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya. “I also got the pupils’ telephone contacts. We used to meet with both girls and boys in schools during ceremonial parties,” he had claimed.

He claimed in 2009 that he only stopped his activities after becoming a born again Christian. On that occasion he was speaking to about 50 parents who had been attending a seminar at a Kampala hotel. The seminar had been organised by the Family Life Network, a local charity which promotes family values.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


An adjournment in the on-going homophobic smear case against three Ugandan Christian evangelist preachers became chaotic when one of the accused clergymen lost his temper with members of the public who were jeering him and his co-accused.

Mr Martin Sempa became angry in the Kampala court on Tuesday (July 26, 2011) when after losing his temper, he said he could no longer stand insults from his rival, Pastor Robert Kayanja’s followers who were taunting him in court. Women believed to be members of Kayanja’s choir hurled insults and taunts of a sexual nature at pastors Sempa, Solomon Male and Bob Kyazze.

The accused preachers, their lawyers, Henry Ddungu and David Kaggwa, together with David Mukalazi and Deborah Kyomuhendo (agents of the accused) face charges of conspiring to injure Pastor Robert Kayanja’s reputation. The two lawyers are charged with allegedly commissioning false affidavits.

One woman shouted that Kyazze and Sempa had tiny sex organs, while making graphic illustrations with her hands of her words. Another person said Pastor Sempa was diseased. This infuriated the accused preachers, prompting Sempa to ask a police officer in the court to restrain the crowds.

The magistrate, Mr John Patrick Wekesa had to emerge from his chambers to warn the warring parties. He said those who were interested in quarrelling could go to their churches or to Kampala’s Nakivubo Football Stadium to face off.

Earlier before the adjournment, the Uganda Police Head of Special Investigations Unit, Ms Grace Akullo told the court that she brought charges against the three anti-gay evangelists after discovering, “intrigue and blackmail” in accusations they made against their fellow clergyman, Pastor Robert Kayanja concerning sodomy.

Ms Akullo said she opened the case after realising that Pastors Sempa, Male and Kyazze were bent on spoiling the reputation of Pastor Kayanja, the lead pastor of Miracle Centre Cathedral, Lubaga with claims that Kayanja sodomised boys in his church.

She was testifying in the on going homophobic smear case in which the three preachers, their agents and lawyers are accused of conspiring to make false accusations that Kayanja sodomises boys.

Ms Akullo told the fully packed court room that she realised during investigations that a one Samson Mukisa had made several statements at a police station, accusing Kayanja of sodomising him.

“But then he kept retracting the statements and denied making the complaint in the first places,” Ms Akullo told the magistrate.

She said at one point, Mr Mukisa said he had been promised Sh50 million (about US$10,000) by agents of Mr Sempa, namely Mukalazi and Kyomuhendo to make false allegations against Kayanja. “But at another point, he (Mukisa) said he was promised [only] Sh6million (about US$2,400). It is not easy to sustain a lie,” the police officer told court.

Ms Akullo said after the Inspector General of Police, Mr Kale Kayihura instructed her to take on investigations, she could not understand why Mr Mukisa who had complained to police that Sempa wanted to harm him would go ahead to appear on national television with Sempa repeating the allegations against Kayanja. She said Mr Mukisa was at one point moved to a high security house in Bweyogerere, a Kampala suburb, by police under the witness protection measure, after claiming that Sempa wanted to harm him.

“They (Mukisa and Sempa’s agents) even had lunch together at Mommo Gallery, but he continued claiming that they wanted to harm him,” the officer told court. Mommo Gallery is an art exhibition centre in Kampala that also has restaurants.

Court was adjourned for an hour after the prosecution protested to the magistrate that the original statements made by the accused and Pastor Kayanja handed to prosecution lawyers had been handed over to the accused persons.

State prosecutor Stephen Asaba said the accused pastors have a history of changing documents and adjourned court so that photo copies could be made and shared.

It was during the adjournment that the drama described above, ensued.

If convicted, the accused pastors and their agents face a five year jail term each under Uganda’s penal code, according to State Prosecutor Stephen Asaba.

The accused pastors have strong links to The Family, a US-based anti lobby group, which is associated with funding Mr David Bahati, a Ugandan legislator to author and present the Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009 calling for the killing of homosexuals.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Uganda: LGBTI Rights are Human Rights

Sylvia Tamale
Dr. Sylvia Tamale, a feminist professor of law at Makerere University, was confronted by Ugandan MPs at a seminar on 24 June 2011 for her stance on LGBTI rights in Uganda. The seminar focused on the role of women in politics and veered off course when Major General Katumba Wamala (representative of the armed forces in parliament) asked Tamale why ‘she encourages women to marry women and men to marry men’.

I thought this was something Tamale could easily dismiss as outside the context of her discussion. However, the chair of the session, John Nasasira (the MP for Kazo County and the government chief whip) took the intrusion a little further by deciding that the plenary discussion should take Tamale to task for her advocacy in defence of gay rights. Instead of following the practice of picking MPs who had raised their hands, Nasasira called on David Bahati (head crusader of the anti-homosexuality lobby in parliament) to ask a question to Tamale: ‘Honourable Bahati, I will give you a chance to ask a question, and you know why.’

Was it necessary for Nasasira to call such a debate? Was he doing this in good faith or was he making fun of Tamale? That question became more complicated when, after Bahati said he would ask a different question not related to gay rights, Nasasira made a remark that during a women’s conference in Nairobi, a female speaker took to the floor and lashed out at men. One of the ministers he attended with commented, ‘I did not know women hated men like this!’ Apparently, another colleague responded, ‘Those are lesbians.’ This was meant to be a joke that turned out to be a tasteless remark.

Tamale finally took the floor to respond to all questions, including the one on gay rights. She reminded members of parliament that not long ago colonialists, slave traders, missionaries and others used their power, the bible and science to justify that we [Africans] were less human, less intelligent or less deserving. She implored MPs to reconsider their actions before seeking to criminalise the lives of fellow humans. However, once we were outside the conference room, it became clear that the battle raging inside the minds and ‘selective moral consciousness’ of MPs had not waned.

Human rights activist Doreen Lwanga was confronted by MPs during the lunch break for inviting Dr. Sylvia Tamale. She tried to reason with MPs including asking the question, "What would you do if you found out that among the people you have legally criminalised and sentenced to death, as proposed by the Anti-Homosexual Bill, are your children, family or dear friends?" MP David Bahati, the author of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, responded that he would hand over his child to the police for punishment.

At lunch hour, an MP asked me, ‘Why would they invite such people, like Tamale?’ His colleague (another MP) responded, ‘People should know where human rights stop and on what continent!’ I asked her if in fact similar charges have not been levied at African women about where they belong and when they should talk in their struggle for recognition as humans. She did not respond to that.

Most arguments I have heard by the anti-homosexuality lobby are framed in the language of upholding societal values based on religion, African culture, western infiltration and being against sinful and abnormal behavior. However, the same people laying the charge that homosexuality has its roots in western culture are comfortable in their Swiss Rolex watches, German Mercedes cars, Finish Nokia phones and Gucci suits.

The tense and seemingly unwelcoming environment did not sway me from the opportunity to debate gay rights with MPs. I reminded those who erroneously accuse the United States of pushing its homosexual behavior onto Ugandans that, until 2003, when the Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas struck down the remaining sodomy laws in 15 US states, same sex couples in the US were prosecutable for the crime of sodomy.

Secondly, what is African culture and what is African about homophobia? Cecilia Ogwal (MP for Dokolo) asked why those people (in the west) are against our African culture of marrying ten wives yet they want to force [our] men to marry fellow men? Then again, in the US state of Utah, and in Canada and Mexico a section of The Church of the Latter Day Saints (commonly referred to as Mormons) practice polygamy, which is conveniently referred to as ‘plural marriage’. Ironically, the same bible-wielding people in Uganda casting stones at homosexuals seem to have no problem engaging in other social ills including adultery, pedophilia, prostitution, pornography, economic exploitation and political exclusion.

I asked several MPs I spoke to: ‘What would you do if you found out that among the people you have legally criminalised and sentenced to death, as proposed by the Anti-Homosexual Bill, are your children, family or dear friends?’ Bahati told me that as someone committed to eradicating such evil behaviour from our society, he would hand over his child to the police for punishment.

Yet, how many of us think of our children as capable of committing ‘those vices’ we disavow? We tend to think that criminals are ‘those people, far away from our good-natured children and families’. We do not want to believe that our children might grow up to realise that their identities are not heterosexual.

A lawyer working with the Ugandan parliament told me she is going to teach her children the ‘right morals’. She, like several others I spoke to, does not believe that homosexuals are born and not made. From her experience in attending a single-sex boarding school in Uganda, ‘girls recruit others into homosexuality’.

On the percentage of MPs who would vote in favour of ‘The Bahati Bill’, my lawyer friend told me that it would pass with about 95 per cent support. I wondered who the other five per cent were. Could they be, as I have since learned from a gay rights scholar, those male MPs having sex with fellow men but not pronouncing themselves as gay?

Dr. Sylvia Tamale recently published African Sexualities: A Reader at Pambazuka Press. It looks at African sexualities through the lens of history, feminism, law, sociology, anthropology, spirituality, poetry, fiction, life stories, rhetoric, song, art, and public health. The volume is written by a large group of authors who live their own sexualities across the diverse possibilities of desire, attraction, family creation, political activism and identity in 16 of Africa's 54 countries. African Sexualities adopts a feminist approach that analyses sexuality within patriarchal structures of oppression while also highlighting its emancipatory potential.

The Law, Gender & Sexuality Research Project at the Makerere University School of Law founded by Dr. Sylvia R. Tamale is putting together a book on the life, work and legacy of David Kisule Kato. David was murdered in his home in January and is considered a founder of Uganda's LGBTI human rights movement.


Mr James Mukasa Sebugenyi was recently elected the new President of Uganda Law Society. Behind the Mask Kampala correspondent, Kikonyogo Kivumbi spoke to him about access to justice for all Ugandans, irrespective of their sexual orientation. Below are excerpts from the interview

BTM: ULS is crucial in the management and administration of justice in Uganda. Briefly what role are you playing in this regard?

ULS: The Uganda Law Society is a professional body of all lawyers in the country whose objectives include, among others, to maintain and improve the standards of conduct and learning of the legal profession in Uganda; to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge by members of the legal profession; to protect and assist the public in Uganda in matters touching, ancillary or incidental to the law and to assist the Government and the courts in all matters affecting legislation and the administration and practice of the law in Uganda.

In pursuit of its mandate, the ULS has worked and continues to work with the judiciary together with other Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS) stakeholders to ensure proper administration of justice. In addition, the Legal Aid Project of the Uganda Law Society and the Pro bono scheme [Lawyers offering free legal services to the public or at a minimal fee] are both focused on ensuring access to justice for those who cannot afford.

The ULS also continues to come out on topical issues of concern, including taking on public interest litigation cases, dialogue, proposals for legislative reform to parliament in form of position papers to ensure adherence and observance of the rule of law in Uganda.

BTM: Homosexuals often face challenges in accessing justice in Uganda. Why?

ULS It is not correct to say that homosexuals face challenges in accessing justice. Our constitution is clear under the Bill of Rights, specifically on equality and non-discrimination. The courts are independent in the adjudication of all manner of disputes. If there are any challenges, then these challenges are structural and affecting the judiciary and litigants alike. [They are not] based on sexual orientation.

BTM: What plans do you have to enhance equal access to justice for all irrespective of sexual orientation?

ULS: [That is] already enumerated above [where I mentioned] the legal aid and pro-bono.

BTM: ULS took position to oppose passing the Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009. But section 145 of the Penal Code still criminalises consensual adult same sex relationships. What do you plan to do about this?

ULS: ULS opposing the Anti-Gay Bill had nothing to do with the content of the Bill (substantive law), because the Penal Code already outlaws and penalises homosexuality. The ULS’ concern was mainly to do with the proposed offences and sanctions, some of which were really draconian.

The argument is really that human rights, while inherent, are not absolute and must be promoted with the context in mind. Homosexuality is a social and not a legal issue, and all its proponents must look at it from that perspective.

BTM: The judiciary in Uganda has shown exemplary independence in administration of justice in cases filed by gay activists. But some forces get discomfort when lawyers, some of whom are members of ULS making legal representation for homosexuals in courts of law. Why? What do you plan to do about this?

ULS: In the exercise of judicial power, the courts are guaranteed independence under article 128 of the constitution, this independence is for all manner of disputes brought before the courts and not only those brought by gays, to say so would imply discrimination by the courts on grounds of sexual orientation which is outlawed by our constitution. The courts shall not be subject to the control or direction of any person or authority.

Regarding involvement of advocates in these cases [brought by or against gays] Article 28(1) of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995 provides for a right to a fair hearing; it states that: in determination of civil rights and obligations or any criminal charge, a person shall be entitled to a fair, speedy, and public hearing before an independent and impartial court or tribunal established by law.

This Article continues to provide for the Presumption of Innocence under clause (3)(a), it states:, every person charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until proved guilty or until that person has pleaded guilty, additionally clause (3)(d) of the same article permits such a person appear before court in person or, at that persons own expense, by a lawyer of his or her choice;

From the above Article, it is notable that every person is entitled to legal representation by an advocate of his or her choice and at his or her own expense. Therefore, when individual members of ULS represent homosexuals in the courts of law, they do so in pursuit of fair trial and rule of law principles enshrined in our constitution and most importantly the presumption of innocence for persons charged with criminal offences.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ugandan MP says new anti-gay bill could be law soon

Posted on July 5th, 2011 by Warren

After a tumultuous end to business in the last session involving the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the current Ninth Parliament of Uganda continues to organize itself for business. Last week, committees were formed and rules or order are being devised. Jockeying for power and influence occupy the efforts of those in the ruling party and those in the opposition.

Lawmaking is probably a month away but one legislator is predicting that a re-introduced Anti-Homosexuality Bill will be law within two months. Otto Odonga, a member of the committee which Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee in the 8th and now again in the 9th Parliament told me via Skype that he expects David Bahati to reintroduce the bill as soon as possible. He predicted that the bill will come to the floor of Parliament as soon as rules allow.

“It will be expedited this time around and passed within one, maybe two months time,” the MP said. Odonga also told me that Stephen Tashobya, the chair of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, was re-appointed to that same post in the new Parliament. While Bahati will need to start from scratch on the bill, the committee will be able to use the report issued last session as a basis for their work this time around. That report called for minimal changes and retained the death penalty for certain offenses. Odonga said the bill has wide support in the Parliament.

As a follow up on a prior story, Odonga also said that David Bahati was selected to be the coordinator of the Parliamentary Prayer Fellowship.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Thank You Note

Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG)
P.O. Box 70208, Clock Tower,
Kampala, Uganda
Telephone: +256 312 294 859

To All Comrades

Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG) would like to extend its sincerest gratitude for your support and encouragement in combating the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Due to your hard work and dedication, the Ugandan
Parliament ended without the passing of the Bill, allowing the LGBT community of Uganda to take one step closer towards freedom. Had the Bill passed, every homosexual within Uganda would have been subject to the death penalty for practicing gay sex with people under 18, with disabled persons, when the accused party is HIV-positive or for those previously convicted of homosexuality-related offences. David Bahati’s desires to “kill every last gay” would have been far from impossible. Thankfully the 8th Parliament closed without the passing of this legislation, and while SMUG was hard at work advocating against this bill, the conclusion reached would not have been possible without the domestic and international support given by all of you.

As SMUG persists in its work to free the LGBT community in Uganda, we request that you continue to support our work and the lives of those who daily live within the fear that state sponsored homophobia creates. The threat of the Bill being proposed again remains on the minds of all those who advocated against it. Even without the threat of the Bill being redrafted, there is work to be done to change the hearts and minds of Ugandan society and rid Uganda of current laws that allow for the arrest and imprisonment of up to 14 years for homosexuals. Combating the homophobia within Ugandan society becomes even more important as we remember the death of our beloved friend and fellow advocate, David Kato, who was brutally murdered in his
home simply because of his steadfast commitment to the rights of the LGBTI community. These atrocities and the threat of future legislation that would further criminalize homosexuality can only be stopped by continuing to advocate for the recognition of equality for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender interpretation. Your continued support of our organization, other human rights groups, and all sexual minorities within Uganda is extremely appreciated. it is our hope that one day, all those in Uganda, across Africa, and around the world will not live in fear because of who they love.

SMUG also welcomes the recent UN Resolution on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity which identifies the need for investigating the discrimination and violence that affects the LGBT community around the globe. Because of this important step made by the international community, David Bahati can no longer support his homophobia through the absence of sexual orientation and gender identity within the international legal system.

We continue to stand with you for justice and equality for all.

In Solidarity

Sexual Minorities of Uganda

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Human Rights Council Passes First-Ever Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

(Geneva, June 17, 2011) In a groundbreaking achievement for upholding the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the United Nations Human Rights Council has passed a resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity (L.9/Rev.1).

The resolution, presented by South Africa along with Brasil and 39 additional co-sponsors from all regions of the world, was passed by a vote of 23 in favour, 19 against, and 3 abstentions. A list of how States voted is attached. In its presentation to Council, South Africa recalled the UDHR noting that “everyone is entitled to all rights and freedoms without distinction of any kind” and Brasil called on the Council to “open the long closed doors of dialogue”.

Today’s resolution is the first UN resolution ever to bring specific focus to human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and follows a joint statement on these issues delivered at the March session of the council. It affirms the universality of human rights, and notes concern about acts of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This commitment of the Human Rights Council sends an important signal of support to human rights defenders working on these issues, and recognizes the legitimacy of their work.

“The South African government has now offered progressive leadership, after years of troubling and inconsistent positions on the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity. Simultaneously, the government has set a standard for themselves in international spaces. We look forward to contributing to and supporting sustained progressive leadership by this government and seeing the end of the violations we face daily”. (Dawn Cavanagh, Coalition of African Lesbians)

The resolution requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a study on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and calls for a panel discussion to be held at the Human Rights Council to discuss the findings of the study in a constructive and transparent manner, and to consider appropriate follow-up.

“That we are celebrating the passage of a UN resolution about human rights violations on the basis of sexual orientation is remarkable, however the fact that gender identity is explicitly named truly makes this pivotal moment one to rejoice in,” added Justus Eisfeld, Co-Director of GATE. “The Human Rights Council has taken a step forward in history by acknowledging that both sexual and gender non-conformity make lesbian, gay, trans* and bi people among those most vulnerable and indicated decisively that states have an obligation to protect us from violence.”

"As treaty bodies, UN special procedures, and national courts have repeatedly recognized, international human rights law prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.” (Alli Jernow, International Commission of Jurists)

The resolution is consistent with other regional and national jurisprudence, and just this week, the 2011 United Nations Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS recognised the need to address the human rights of men who have sex with men, and the Organization of American States adopted by consensus a resolution condemning violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Earlier in this 17th session of the Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo, reported to the Council that:

“[C]ontributory factors for risk of violence include individual aspects of women’s bodily attributes such as race, skin colour, intellectual and physical abilities, age, language skills and fluency, ethnic identity and sexual orientation.”

The report also detailed a number of violations committed against lesbian, bisexual and trans women, including cases of rape, attacks and murders. It is therefore regrettable that a reference to "women who face sexuality-related violence" was removed from the final version of another resolution focused on the elimination of violence against women during the same session.

"Despite this inconsistency, we trust the UN resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity will facilitate the integration of the full range of sexual rights throughout the work of the UN." (Meghan Doherty, Sexual Rights Initiative)

A powerful civil society statement was delivered at the end of the session, welcoming the resolution and affirming civil society’s commitment to continuing to engage with the United Nations with a view to ensuring that all persons are treated as free and equal in dignity and rights, including on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Now, our work is just beginning”, said Kim Vance of ARC International. “We look forward to the High Commissioner’s report and the plenary panel next March, as well as to further dialogue with, and support from, those States which did not yet feel able to support the resolution, but which share the concern of the international community at these systemic human rights abuses.”

ARC International, John Fisher (Geneva) +41 79 508 3968 or

Amnesty International, Peter Splinter (Geneva) +41 (0) 22 906 9483 or Emily Gray (London) +44 (0) 20 7413 5865
CAL – Coalition of African Lesbians, Dawn Cavanagh (South Africa) + 27 11 918 6115 or COC Nederland, Björn van Roozendaal(Netherlands) +31 6 22 55 83 00 or

Council for Global Equality, Mark Bromley (Washington) +1.202.719.0511 or

GATE - Global Action for Trans* Equality, Justus Eisfeld (New York), +1-646-341-1699 or Mauro Cabral (Argentina) or +54 9 351 5589876
Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, Stefano Fabeni (Washington) +1 312-919-3512 or

Human Rights Watch, Siphokazi Mthathi (South Africa) or + 27 82 777 1319/ +27 11 484 2640 or Juliette De Rivero (Geneva) +41 079 640 1649 or

IDAHO - International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, Joel Bedos (France)

IGLHRC - International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Jessica Stern (New York) + 1 212 430 6014 or

ILGA- the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, Renato Sabbadini, +32 474 857 950 or

International Campaign Stop Trans Pathologization STP 2012, Amets Suess, stp2012@gmail.comInternational Commission of Jurists, Alli Jernow (Geneva) +41(0)22 979 3800) or

International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), Bjorn Pettersson (Geneva),, +41 22 919 7117
Sexual Rights Initiative, Meghan Doherty, Sexual Rights Initiative, +41 (0)78 871 6713 or Thailand's Sexual Diversity Network, Paisarn Likhitpreechakul +66 81 634 3450 or forsogi@gmail.comTransgender Europe (TGEU), Carla LaGata (Germany),

Attachment (Records of Vote and Co-Sponsorship)

States supporting the resolution: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Hungary, Japan, Mauritius, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, Thailand, UK, USA, Uruguay

States against the resolution: Angola, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Djibouti, Gabon, Ghana, Jordan, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Moldova, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Uganda.

Abstentions: Burkina Faso, China, Zambia

Absent: Kyrgyzstan, Libya (suspended)

Co-Sponsors of the resolution: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, and Uruguay.

A Christian Response to Homosexuality

By Rev. Stephen R. Parelli, Executive Director of Other Sheep
December 27, 2010, Bronx, New York; email:
Prepared for Trivandrum Theological Forum (TTF), Trivandrum, Kerala, India
TTF website:; TTF email:

Sexual traditions of India suppressed by British colonizers
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which makes it a crime to engage in “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal”, and which was read down by the Delhi High Court judgment in the Naz Foundation v. Union of India on 2 July, 2009, so that gay sex between consenting adults was decriminalized, was originally “drafted by Lord Macaulay and enacted in 1860 during British colonial rule.”
In the years leading up to the 2009 Naz decision, the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India, in its 2003 affidavit supporting the retention of Section 377, argued that the law “was brought under the statute as an act of criminality [because] it responded to the values and mores of the time [1860] in the Indian society,” to which the petitioners, in their reply to the court, countered by saying Section 377 evinced only “the British Judeo-Christian values of the time.”
Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai, in their book Same-Sex Love in India: A Literary History, provide an invaluable anthology of Indian writings from ancient times to the present on the subjects of the love of a man for a man, and of a women for a women. Robert Goldman calls the collection “a powerful corrective to the often expressed opinion that the Indian tradition is either unaware of or openly hostile to same-sex love.”
According to Dr. George Nalunnakkal of the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, “India’s traditional silence on ‘sexuality’ is nothing but a celebrated myth. In fact, the Indian mind had always engaged sexuality in a very open and radical manner. It was, in fact, the colonizers who had brought to India their ‘values’ and ethos, which suppressed the Indian tradition.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), regarded by many to be one of the most important thinkers in the West, wrote with some wit: "The unnatural, that too is natural." The “British Judeo-Christian values” of the 19th century, and well into the 20th century, on homosexuality, are in keeping, not with the wit of von Goethe, but with a literal reading of the Epistle to the Romans by the Apostle Paul, so that, for the British, same-sex sex-acts were most assuredly “against nature.”
The problem is how we read the Bible

“The ‘problem,’ of course, is not the Bible, it is the Christians who read it. . . . No credible case against homosexuality or homosexuals can be made from the Bible,” says Peter Gomes, “unless one chooses to read Scripture in a way that sustains the existing prejudice against homosexuality and homosexuals.”
As a young man in my early teens, I was conditioned to think a certain way – to think Biblically. I would attend church three or more times a week. On a daily basis I would engage myself in systematic Bible study. With paper and pen I would write out my thoughts on the Scripture I had read for the day. In the course of my religious experience, while still at a very young age, I came to believe that the Bible condemned same-sex sex acts. I was terrified by those Bible passages that appeared to undoubtedly condemn me for my homoerotic feelings and my desire to act upon them. Some of these texts were: “Bring them out to us that we may know them,” Genesis 19:5; “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination,” Leviticus 18:22. “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another,” Romans 1:27a.
During my years in Bible college and seminary, and as an ordained Baptist minister, my spiritual discipline and the vigilance I kept were constant, but by the time I reached my mid-40s I was weary and weak. I put myself into reparative therapy with counselor Joseph Nicolosi of NARTH and began attending area “ex-gay” support groups. Once these attempts for change ran their course, and having rigorously put into practice my spiritual disciplines for more than twenty years, I found myself thinking critically. “What if the church is wrong about homosexuality,” I asked myself. It was an astounding thought, something like an epiphany. I had never thought like this before, that a way of thinking, almost universally received, could be flawed. I found my new open-mindedness exciting as I considered the possibilities of study, and yet somewhat unsettling as I began to consider the ramifications of my new direction in thinking, i.e., ‘what if the universe is wrong?’
I began to read authors, who like me, questioned the church’s teaching on homosexuality. I read every book I could find. I began to build a library of books on the topic of faith and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) concerns. I was amazed to find that serious theologians and scholars, most of them gay, had already been addressing the topic for about twenty-five years or more. I had never seen their books before. How isolated I had been. I was a recluse in my own spiritual, ecclesiastical, evangelical waist land.
Against Nature – Romans 1:26, 27
The second major critical thought I remember having at some later point in time was this: The only way Romans 1:18-32 could be about me was if I were to read the chapter backwards, beginning with verses 26 and 27, the “against nature” part. This realization was a new beginning for me; I was no longer under the condemnation of Romans 1. I had memorized Romans 1:18-32 as a young man and would quote this passage as a means of spiritual defense whenever tempted by homoerotic thoughts or desires. Now, in my late 40’s, I was free: nothing in this passage leading up to verses 26 and 27 (“against nature”) was descriptive of me, and therefore, verses 26 and 27 did not apply to me. It was my second epiphany. I was somewhat transformed by it. It was an intellectually violent upheaval, an about-face, a metamorphosis, a radical change in my thinking: Romans 1, including verses 26 and 27, isn’t about me.
Elizabeth Stuart says the Apostle Paul uses this phrase, against nature, “to describe, not homosexual people, but Gentiles who characteristically engaged in same-sex activity, a characteristic that distinguishes them, not from heterosexuals, but from the Jews” [emphasis mine].
“Certainly, biblical writers knew of homosexual acts, but they apparently understood those acts as being done by heterosexual people (they assumed everyone was heterosexual). Thus, when persons engaged in same-sex genital behavior, they were departing from their natural and given orientation.”
Mr. Shyam Divan, in his Outline of arguments submitted to the Bench in The Naz Judgment, says “Section 377 criminalizes ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature.’ For a homosexual male or female, his or her sexual orientation is ‘natural’. The sexual orientation of an individual arises from the depth of his or her being and it is not an aspect of his or her conduct that can be termed as ‘unnatural’ or ‘against the order of nature’. In most reported studies, persons have either no choice or very little choice in their attraction to members of their own sex.”
Sodom and Gomorrah – Genesis 19
Dale Martin, in his book Sex and the Single Savior, says that in interpreting Biblical texts, “we read [them] certain ways because we are socialized to do so; . . . we read [them] differently on a second reading because we ourselves have been (socially!) changed in the meantime.”

The now somewhat popular “second reading” of the Biblical account of Sodom and Gomorrah, a paradigm shift witnessed in my own life time, from the traditional “Sodomy” interpretation to the “inhospitality” interpretation (cf. Mark 6:7-11) is a striking example of the fact that different “social and psychological constraints” were evidently brought to bear on this text. Michael Carden, in his book Sodomy: A History of a Christian Biblical Myth, says “my engagement with the texts will not pretend any dispassion.” Gay theologians, having brought their queer selves to the Sodom and Gomorrah story, have concluded, and widely published, that the sin of Sodom (cf. Ezekiel 16:49 ) was “oppression and injustice, not sexual sin” [emphasis mine].

So effective has “gay theology” been since its beginnings in the 1970’s that, as early as 1993, Bob Davies and Lori Rentzel, two popular evangelical “ex-gay” authors who maintain that all same-sex sex-acts are forbidden by Scripture, dismiss Gen. 19 as a text that can support their view. In Coming Out of Homosexuality: New Freedom for Men & Women, they admit “pro-gay theologians are correct in saying that this passage [Sodom and Gomorrah] does not provide a strong argument against prohibiting all homosexual acts” [emphasis mine].

The lyings down of a woman – Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13

The Hebrew text of Leviticus 18:22 reads “And with a male (וְאֶת־זָכָר ve’et zakhar) you shall not lie (לֹא תִשְׁכַּב lo tishkav) the lyings down of a woman (מִשְׁכְּבֵי אִשָּׁה miskab issah).” To lie “the lyings down of a woman” (מִשְׁכְּבֵי אִשָּׁה miskab issah, Lev. 18:22 and 20:13) is, according to Saul M. Olyan, a reference “specifically to intercourse and suggest[s] that anal penetration was seen as analogous to vaginal penetration on some level.”
Therefore, the prohibition is against male-to-male anal intercourse, nothing more. Strictly speaking, other forms of homoeroticism between men are therefore permitted, such as oral sex, mutual masturbation, and intercurural sex.

Beyond the literal rendering of the verse itself, and in the greater context of Israel’s “strategy to survive,” Nissinen sees the Leviticus prohibition as a prohibition against confusing gender roles. “Interpretation of gender,” says Nissenin, was “a fundamental factor of social structure and control.” On the other hand, Miner and Connoley understand the Leviticus prohibition to be “clearly directed at homosexual temple prostitution.” In either case, it would be difficult to show how Israel’s Holiness Code – of which Lev. 18 and 20 is a part – fits the context of same-sex lovers today. Nissinen notes, “in no way can the code be likened to civil or criminal law in the modern sense of the word.”

Malakoi and arsenokoitai – I Corinthians 6:8-10 and I Timothy 1:10

The list of sins in these two Pauline texts include malakoi (I Cor. 6:9) and arsenokoitai (I Cor. 6:9 and I Tim. 1:10). Both words have been sorely mistranslated as “homosexuals” (malakoi, NKJV ; arsenokoitais, I Tim. 1:10, NAS, HCSB, LEB ).

Malakoi literally means soft; it is a “type of moral weakness.” Because it is listed in I Cor. 6:9-10 with sins that are clearly sexual, malakoi might best be rendered, as it is by quit a few versions, as “male prostitute” (see NRSV, NIV, NLT, HCSB, NCV, ISV, and TNIV for this rendering).

One can easily see that there is a radical difference between “homosexuals” and “male prostitute.” “Homosexual” is a modern term in common use today which identifies a person’s sexual orientation as being attracted to the same sex. “Homosexual,” like “heterosexual,” says nothing of a person’s lifestyle as being moral or immoral which raises the question as to why would “homosexual” be placed in a list of sins along with thieves, drunkards, adulterers, murderers and liars, which is what the Bible translators do here. “Male prostitute,” on the other hand, says nothing about one’s sexual orientation. A male prostitute could be homosexual or heterosexual. His lifestyle is prostitution, but his sexual orientation is not known. That modern Bible translators can translate each of these words, malakoi and arsenokoitai, using words with such wide-ranging differences in meaning, indicates that the meaning of the original Greeks words are difficult to discern, and/or the translators are culturally biased in their translation work.

Arsenokoitai is, in fact, a difficult word to translate. It occurs only 73 times over a period of around 600 years following Paul and generally occurs in lists, in which case there is little to no context by which to provide a sense of meaning. In one such list, “the term is used by a Greek author when cataloguing the sins of the Greek gods” and is, perhaps, a reference to Zeus, who, by force, abducted and raped Ganymede, a young man. There is a second text which gives us a further indication as to the possible meaning of arsenokoitai. According to Greek legend, Naas (the name given to the snake in the garden once it became a Satantic figure) commits “adultery” with Adam. Hippolytus writes that it is by this act of “adultery” that arsenokoites enters into the world, and compares Naas and Adam with Zeus and Ganymede. In this context, arsenokoitai conveys the idea of a strong individual taking sexual advantage over a weaker individual by use of position and power.

Miner and Connoley make the observation that arsenokoitai in Paul’s two lists of sins (I Cor. 6:9-10 and I Tim 1:10) comes at the end of a list of sexual sins (male prostitutes and fornication ending each list respectively) and at the beginning of a list of economic sins (thieves and slave traders heading each list respectively), suggesting that arsenokoitai “describes a male who aggressively takes sexual advantage of another male.” Tom Hanks notes that “Paul’s vice list” in I Cor. 6:8-10 is “headed with the reference to oppression (akikia), implying that the homoerotic acts condemned [there] are those characterized by exploitation, injustice and violence (rape), all especially experienced by slaves.” Hanks further notes that the oppression heading is paralleled in Romans 1:18, 29; 2:8; and 3:5, which, again, implies that the homoerotic acts in Romans are “characterized by exploitation, injustice and violence (rape).”

There is no biblical sex ethic; only a love ethic

James B. Nelson, Professor of Christian Ethics at United Theological Seminary, Minneapolis, from 1963-1995, says it is problematic to use “direct guidance from Scripture” for determining “specific sexual behaviors” because “the Scriptures are multiform and inconsistent in the sexual moralities endorsed therein” such as “polygamy, levirate marriage, concubinage, and prostitution. . . .

“Even on such a major issue as sexual intercourse between unmarried consenting adults there is no explicit prohibition in either Hebrew Scripture or the New Testament (which John Calvin discovered to his consternation). Indeed, the Song of Solomon celebrates one such relationship. . . I believe that our best biblical scholarship reaches Walter Wink’s conclusion: ‘There is no biblical sex ethic. The Bible knows only a love ethic, which is constantly being brought to bear on whatever sexual mores are dominant in any given country, or culture, or period’” [emphasis his].

Purity codes and Outcasts

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day – the Sadducees, Pharisees, and priests – were strict adherents and guardian of the purity codes. This meant they were concerned with a certain “habitual arrangement of things.” The arrangement was what was valued, not the people (Mark 2:27 ). In this context, the religious leaders had “narrowed the love of God until it included only themselves.”

In their arrangement of things, the Jews had reduced the Samaritans to the “lowest degree” within the social order, ranking them with Gentiles. After the Israelites, at the top of the strata, were the despised trades, like tax collectors. Then after them, in a general descending order, were Jewish and Gentile slaves; proselytes; freed gentile slaves; and – just above the stratum of the Samaritans and Gentiles – were Israelites with serious blemishes like bastards, the fatherless and eunuchs.

By repeatedly recounting a discriminating story-of-origin about the Samaritans, and by observing day-to-day ritualized actions against them, the Jews had ostracized the Samaritans socially and religiously. They “cursed the Samaritans in their synagogues and considered their touch as pollution. . . . Their very name became a term of abuse, ‘Thou art a Samaritan and hast a devil’, John 8. 48. The Jews were “righteous,” while the Samaritans were “outcasts.”

The need to belong

In their book What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage, the authors show that, essentially, you and I, straight and gay, are social beings created with the innate desire to belong. To be avoided, shunned, ignored or excluded can have damaging effects on our emotional well-being. “Those who’ve experienced the silent treatment” from family, groups, or society, “have called it ‘emotional abuse’ and ‘a terrible, terrible weapon to use.’”

Social exclusion can result in depression, loss of self-esteem, delinquency, violence, and suicide. This is especially true for LGBT youth who, according to one American report released in 2006, “are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.” Findings in another American study released in 2009 showed that “adolescents who were rejected by their families for being LGBT were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide.”

In the morning sessions of Day 3 (25 September 2008) of the proceedings before the Delhi High Court in the matter of Naz Foundation vs. Union of India, Mr. Shyam Divan, in his arguments for Voices Against 377, said, “Homosexuals suffer tremendous psychological harm. Fear of discrimination leads to a concealment of true identity. . . . [I]n the case of homosexuals it is the tainting of desire, it is the attribution of perversity and shame to spontaneous bodily affection, it is the prohibition of the expression of love, it is the denial of full moral citizenship in society because you are what you are, that impinges on the dignity and self worth of a group.”

In the “habitual arrangement of things” today, where “humans use ostracism to control social behavior,” in too many cases, LGBT people have been placed outside the circle of inclusion by their local church and by their devout families. An eminent African American civil rights activist of the 1950’s and 60’s, who was doing LGBT faith-based activism with me with Soulforce in 2008, told me this: “Something the African American had in his struggle for civil rights was his family and his church. When society would reject the African American in his struggle for equality, he or she could repair to their family and church and there find solace, belonging, love and hope. Not so for the LGBT person,” he said. “For them, family and church, two basic units for belonging and empowerment, have joined society in ostracizing the LGBT person in his struggle for equality and acceptance, and he or she is left with the realization that they are completely cut off.”

The reign of God on earth

When Jesus was brought before Pilate, he was charged with subverting the nation (Luke 23:2, NIV). He had brought into question the existing value system. He had crossed social boundaries and had disrupted the “habitual arrangement of things.” By his subversive teachings and actions, he had freed things and people from their “proper” broken places in the arrangement of things. He had “widened the love of God until it reached out to all men.” He was creating the reign of God. His was the message of inclusion.

Criminalizing HIV/AIDS care and support: Discrimination laws threatening the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa

A paper presented to a workshop organized by Salud por Derecho on
“Challenges on the road to Universal Access on the 30th Anniversary of HIV/AIDS”
Wamala Dennis Mawejje
Since it was discovered over two decades ago, HIV/AIDS has claimed so many lives and attracted a lot of attention. In this regard, so many interventions have been designed and implemented to curb this epidemic. However much multi-pronged the interventions claim to be, there are still areas where a lot of work still needs to be done- some of these areas have actually slowed or retarded progress in this fight. One such area is the majorly ignored issue of sexual minorities.
These have been ignored in many countries and some have even argued that the LGBT community does not exist. This has meant discrimination in the application of interventions for prevention, treatment and care in combating HIV/AIDS.
Discrimination against the LGBT community is also multi-pronged; it comes from cultural, religious, economic and legal angles to mention but a few. Today I will look at the legal angle of discrimination and how it is impacting on the fight against HIV/AIDS in the world generally but with specific interest in Uganda where discrimination is at unprecedented levels.
Despite the call for non-discrimination by different documents like the yogyakarta principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, Universal Declaration Human Rights, African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, HIV/AIDS declaration and many others, many countries still treat LGBT people if not as second class citizens then as worthless members of society. This is reflected even when it comes to dealing with HIV/AIDS.
Like is the case that a medical practitioner should report any bullet wound they treat, practitioners in some countries where same sex relations are criminalized tend not only to shy away from dealing with such people as they believe it to be abetting crime but are also not well trained in dealing with MSM issues since these are seen as illegal. Today over 80 Countries around the world still criminalize same sex relations and Uganda is one of them.
These laws mainly affect men having sex with men (MSM).
Uganda was one of the first African countries to respond aggressively to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, moving rapidly to introduce measures to prevent HIV transmission. Thus, in Uganda HIV prevalence rates that once hovered around 30%, declined to under 10 % over the last two decades (Okero et al, 2004). Nevertheless, there is presently some concern that HIV prevalence rates are once again on the rise or at best reached a plateau where the numbers of new HIV infections match AIDS-related deaths. Reasons advanced for this state of affairs include increasingly active restrictive legislation to HIV related issues like same sex relations, the government’s shift towards abstinence-based prevention programs, general complacency (‘AIDS-fatigue’) and the changes in the perception of AIDS as a treatable and manageable disease with the availability of ART.
Though the constitution of Uganda calls for the establishment of rights and freedoms for all, the LGBT community has not been able to enjoy these freedoms as a minority group.
• Section 140 of the penal code of the republic of Uganda criminalizes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” with maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Also, Section 141 prohibits “attempts at Carnal knowledge” with maximum penalty of 7 years’ imprisonment. Section 143, punishes acts of procurement of or attempts to procure acts of gross indecency” between men in public or private with up to 5 years imprisonment
We even saw a push further in the wrong direction by an MP belonging to the ruling party who introduced the anti-homosexuality bill 2009 with severe punishments for same sex relations including a death penalty, jail terms for issues like mandatory reporting and many other extremely ridiculous provisions.
Restrictive legislative environments in some countries hinder effective HIV service provision to MSM. In fact, sexual acts in private between consensual adults of the same sex are still criminalized in most of Africa.
These restrictive legislations have meant that most LGBT people live their lives underground (very secret lives) and it makes provision of care and support in terms of LGBT health initiatives very difficult and unlikely because you cannot provide care to someone you are not aware of.
Also using the law, we have seen security personnel arresting LGBT people with the intention of extortion. Some of these people are raped in detention and this worsens the HIV/AIDS situation as well as bringing down their self-esteem to deal with the infection.
LGBT activists who have braved the storm to advocate for equal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care have many times been arrested like was the case in the HIV/AIDS implementer’s meeting held in Kampala where three activists were arrested. This discourages other activists from coming out against discrimination as they find the issue tricky hence worsening the HIV/AIDS situation both for LGBT people and female partners to MSM.
Also during post-test counseling and treatment of STIs, individuals are encouraged to bring their partners along but the laws against same sex relations make it difficult for people in such relations to benefit from this. This means that the counselors will not do their job well and the fight against HIV/AIDS becomes even more difficult.
Because anti-homosexuality laws basically legitimize discrimination, those who come out to defy this order face isolation not only from the public but also from the LGBT community itself. You find that some LGBT people shun service providers who openly work with same sex loving couples for fear that they might get exposed and face the stigma that comes with being a known homosexual.
Since the law does not recognize same sex relations, the health sector establishment in its bid to fight HIV/AIDS does not include consumables for MSM and WSW like lubricants, IEC materials, etc, meaning that they use all types of crude and dangerous consumables which ultimately expose them to HIV.
Worst of all, to evade the law, some LGBT people live double lives. A man will get married to a woman to hide the fact that he is sleeping with men. This means that if because of the reasons I have mentioned above he catches HIV from his male partner, he will pass it on to his female partner and the chain of HIV transmission then becomes endless. This is a serious issue in Uganda and that is why we argue that protecting MSM from being infected and affected by HIV and AIDS means we are protecting the whole community.
To achieve this, we need to rethink our restrictive legislations against same sex relations and embrace a more broad based approach.
I thank you.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Obama says gay couples deserve same rights as all

NEW YORK – Treading carefully, President Barack Obama praised New York state lawmakers who were debating landmark legislation Thursday to legalize gay marriage, saying that's what democracy's all about. But as expected, the president stopped short of embracing same-sex marriage himself, instead asking gay and lesbian donors for patience.

"I believe that gay couples deserve the same legal rights as every other couple in this country," the president said at a Manhattan fundraiser, his first geared specifically to the gay community. Coincidentally, the long-planned event occurred just as lawmakers in Albany were debating legislation that would make New York the sixth and by far the largest state to legalize gay marriage.

That served to spotlight the president's own views on same-sex marriage, a sore point with gay supporters who've otherwise warmed to Obama. The president has said his views are "evolving," but for now he supports civil unions, not same-sex marriage.

Obama said progress will be slower than some people want, but he added that he was confident that there will be a day "when every single American, gay or straight or lesbian or bisexual or transgender, is free to live and love as they see fit.

"Traditionally marriage has been decided by the states and right now I understand there's a little debate going on here in New York," he said to laughter. New York's lawmakers, he said, are "doing exactly what democracies are supposed to do."
[ For complete coverage of politics and policy, go to Yahoo! Politics ]

The lawmakers ended their session late Thursday in Albany without voting on the bill.

As Obama spoke a handful of people shouted out "marriage!" And Obama said, "I heard you guys." He never directly mentioned gay marriage.

Obama said there were those who shouted at him at events about other causes of the gay community, such as the need for anti-hate crimes legislation and for the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" ban on openly gay military service, and both of those have since been achieved.

Obama also has won favor by instructing the Justice Department to stop defending in court a law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Obama told of receiving a letter last year from a teenager in a small town. He said the boy was a senior in high school who was gay and was afraid to come out. The boy wondered to the president why gays shouldn't be equal like everyone else.

"So, yes, we have more work to do," Obama said. "Yes, we have more progress to make. Yes, I expect continued impatience with me on occasion."

He said teenagers such as the one who wrote to him "remind me that there should be impatience when it comes to the fight for basic equality. We've made enormous advances just in these last two and half years. But there's still young people out there looking for us to do more."

In a direct appeal for votes, Obama said: "With your help, if you keep up the fight, if you will devote your time and your energies to this campaign one more time, I promise you we will write another chapter in that story. ... I'll be standing there, right there with you."

Overall the reaction Obama got was warm from the crowd of nearly 600 who paid up to $35,800 each to hear him speak at a midtown hotel. And only a small group of protesters showed up to demonstrate outside for marriage equality. It was a measure of how much the gay community has warmed to Obama since earlier in his administration when donors threatened to boycott Democratic fundraisers to pressure Obama on "don't ask, don't tell."

If Obama were to endorse gay marriage, it would give a jolt of enthusiasm to his liberal base and perhaps unlock additional fundraising dollars from the well-heeled gay community. It's not clear it would get him too many additional votes in 2012 though, because the Republican field's general opposition to gay rights gives activists no alternative to Obama.

At the same time, supporting gay marriage could alienate some religious voters that the politically cautious White House might still hope to win over for Obama's re-election campaign.

Obama has indicated support in the past for states allowing gay people to marry. As a presidential candidate, he went so far as to congratulate gay couples in California who married during the short period when gay marriage was legal in that state before voters shut it down.

The president also signed a questionnaire in 1996 as a candidate for Illinois state Senate saying he supported gay marriage, something the White House hasn't fully explained.

Even as the president deliberates, public sentiment is marching decisively in the direction of supporting gay marriage. Depending on the poll, people are now about evenly split or narrowly in favor.

"There's been a noticeable shift the last couple of years," said Carroll Doherty, associate director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. In March, the center found that 45 percent of those surveyed favored gay marriage and 46 percent opposed it. That was the first time that the survey found an essentially even split instead of majority opposition.

It's something the president has noted, telling liberal bloggers in October that "it's pretty clear where the trend lines are going."

The question is when, how and if the president goes there too.