Sunday, 23 January 2011

Britain's two faces to LGBTI Uganda

Human Rights Day protest against Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill - Ugandan Embassy, London, 10 December 2009. Credit Brett Lock of OutRage!
By Paul Canning

Despite reports that homosexuality could be punishable by death in Uganda as early as May and amidst widespread reports of violence, the British Home Office is still trying to remove lesbian and gay Ugandans on the presumption they will not be persecuted.

Uganda born student, Brenda Namigadde, 29, was among those who took part in a demonstration outside the Uganda High commission in Trafalgar Square, Central London in 2009, when the Ugandan government introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in parliament.

Now she's in Heathrow immigration detention centre and completely terrified.
“They already know who I am, because photos were taken of me and my colleagues that day. The Ugandan government has names of most of them as they have been published in several newspapers in the country.” 
Namigadde, who was in a relationship with Canadian born Janet Hoffman, for almost three years while in Uganda, said that a number of lesbian friends of her in that country "have not been heard of since news of what the government had in mind broke out."

“It is like they have all vanished in thin air, I don't know what is going to happen to me once there,” said Namigadde before she broke into tears.

She was due to be deported 20 January, but that was only stopped after a mix-up with someone else name being submitted to the airline.

Her lawyer, of Cardinal Solicitors in Luton, said:
“Her life could be in danger because very little is known about this law in Uganda. There are reports of mob justice in certain areas in that country."
Another gay Ugandan, Garrick Nyeswa, has been desperately fighting to stay in this country. The rejection letter he received from the Home Office included the statement that “there is no evidence to confirm that homosexuals are persecuted in Uganda”

Current Foreign Office travel advice for Uganda is that "homosexuality is illegal and social tolerance of it is low."

The UK Border Agency was reported in April to be moving to block any visa application by the author of the Anti-Homosexuality bill, David Bahati MP.

Last week Bahati told LezGetReal that Uganda “does not not consider homosexuality as a human right” and that it will do everything it can to enforce criminal sanctions against those who “practice homosexuality.”

Earlier last year, then Minister of State for Africa and the United Nations, Baroness Kinnock, delivered Britain's condemnation of the bill in Kampala.

And in November, the Foreign Office released a statement to saying:
“The UK, alongside our EU partners, has raised our concerns about the draft bill and LGBT rights more broadly with the government of Uganda, including with the prime minister and several other ministers, the Ugandan Human Rights Commission, and senior officials from the Ugandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs."
“We will continue to track the passage of the bill and to lobby against its introduction.”

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