WASHINGTON, January 21 – The Ugandan Anti Homosexuality Bill (2009) undermines very basic human rights, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of Congress heard this afternoon.
Julius Kaggwa of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, who had flown-in from Uganda for today’s hearing, said that his group had been approached by many in his country who had received death threat.
And there was total silence in the hearing room at the US Congress when he told law-makers that he was himself a “personal victim” to both verbal and physical assault as were gays who often suffered daily.
“Our rights as human are universal,” he told the hearing, adding that the character of Uganda and the rights of its citizens were at stake.
Mr Kaggwa pointed out that sexual minorities in Uganda were already excluded in HIV programmes – and the Bill makes the situation unimaginably worse.
“All in Uganda are affected,” he said.
Mr Kaggwa added that the Bill was not just a foreign policy issue. “It’s national issue affecting all Ugandans.”
Cary Alan Johnson, executive director if the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, told the hearing that the lack of unequivocal condemnation by the Ugandan Government had already caused grave damage.
The United States must maintain the pressure on Uganda, he insisted.
Deputy Assistant Secretary Karl Wycoff, who was representing the U.S. Department of State, told the hearing that the Bill not only constitutes serious threats to human rights in Uganda and the internationall reputation of country, but also compromises Aids work.
Rev. Kapya Kaoma, a Zambian Anglican priest was is currently project director at the progressive Boston ‘think tank’ Political Research Associates, said that Ugandans were fighting for their rights – and needed the support of the United States.
He reminded the Commission member of the deep US conservative evangelical influcene and support for the Bill.
Rev. Kaoma pointed out that since the anti gay seminar in Uganda last March, at which three American evangelicals, including Scott Lively, attendend, 14 known cases of arrest had occurred, including one death, on grounds of suspected homosexuality
Christine Lubinski of the HIV Medicine Association at the Infectious Diseases Society of America said that 1500 doctors were outraged by Bill and its threat to combat HIV.
“Silence equals death,” she said. “We have a responsibility to ensure billions of USPEPFAR money is reaching those in need.
Representative Tammy Baldwin, who chaired the hearing, said that through their involvement in the Bill religious leaders were attempting to restrict human rights and that the Bill would put USPEPFAR in serious jeopardy.
“No modification of the Bill would make it palatable to those committed to social justice,” Ms Lubinski insisted.
And she went on to say that Uganda already had regressive laws affecting the LGBT community in the country.
Representative James McGovern said that the Bill, which would seriously limit HIV work, turns people into “sex spies”.
And he had a warning to the Ugandan authorities: “US Congress stands behind Mr. Kaggwa”. He added that he would be “watching for his security very closely”.
This report was compiled courtesy of Jirair Ratevosian, Deputy Director, Public Policy at The Foundation for AIDS Research, who was “tweeting” from the hearing.
For full report, see DC Agenda: U.S. Commission Considers Ways to Stop Anti-Gay Uganda Bill. By Chris Johnson (January 23, 2010).
Rep. Tammy Baldwin (WI-02) chairs a January 2010 Congressional hearing in strong opposition to pending legislation in Uganda that would outlaw homosexuality and make any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex punishable by prison or even death.
Baldwin, Polis, Frank Lead Opposition to Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill
Send Letters to Presidents Obama and Museveni
Source: Rep Tammy Baldwin - January 21, 2010
In strong opposition to pending legislation in Uganda that would outlaw homosexuality and make any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex punishable by prison or even death, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, and Congressmen Jared Polis and Barney Frank, Co-Chairs of the Congressional Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Equality Caucus, joined by more than ninety of their colleagues, have sent letters to President Obama and Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.
In the letters, the Members of Congress call the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009 “the most extreme and hateful attempt by an African country to criminalize their LGBT community.” The Members asked President Obama to use his “personal leadership, and that of our country, in seeking to deter these legislative proposals,” and warned President Museveni that, “Should the bill be passed, any range of bilateral programs important to relations between our countries and, indeed, to the Ugandan people inevitably would be called under review.”
The Ugandan legislation would increase the penalty for same-sex sexual acts to life in prison, limit the distribution of information on HIV by criminalizing the “promotion of homosexuality,” and establish the crime of “aggravated homosexuality” punishable by death for anyone in Uganda who is HIV positive and has consensual same-sex relations. Further, the bill includes a provision that could lead to the imprisonment for up to three years of anyone who fails to report to the government within 24 hours the identities of everyone they know who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, or who supports human rights for people who are.
“The pending Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda is an appalling violation of human rights and it behooves us, as Americans and Members of Congress, to do all we can to prevent its passage,” said Congresswoman Baldwin. “We fervently hope that President Obama will use the full force of his office to oppose this hateful and life-threatening legislation in Uganda and send a clear message to other countries that such discrimination must not be tolerated. And, we hope that Ugandan President Museveni recognizes that this legislation is morally untenable and politically harmful to his nation,” Baldwin said.
“This is nothing more than the institutionalization of hatred and bigotry and it must be stopped,” said Congressman Polis. “Governments should promote peace within their people, not instill unconscionable discrimination, which will undoubtedly lead to human rights violations. I strongly encourage Presidents Obama and Museveni to do everything in their powers to prevent it from becoming law,” Polis said.
“Having accepted debt relief from the international community only a few years ago, Uganda has an obligation to show some respect for basic human rights,” said Congressman Frank. “Vicious unleashing of persecution of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people should and will be an obstacle to any future Congressional initiative to provide aid to that country,” Frank added.
The letter to President Obama expresses the Members’ serious concerns about the grave injustice occurring in Uganda and other countries that are taking steps to criminalize or otherwise severely discriminate against the LGBT communities and asks the President to speak out publicly against this proposed legislation to bring further attention to the issue.
The letter to Ugandan President Museveni urges him to use every means possible to convey to leaders in Parliament that this draconian legislation is reckless in both intent and potential impact and should be withdrawn immediately.