Posted By Lucile Scott February 10, 2014
*Update: On February 14, President Yoweri Museveni issued a statement that “scientists” had presented him with research findings showing that homosexuality is not genetic, but a learned behavior and that he would therefore sign the bill—though he has yet to do so. International outcry against the bill is now more critical than ever.
A Global Day of Action protest against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in front of the Uganda High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya.
HIV and LGBT activists in Uganda have designated today, February 10, Global Day of Action against the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The Ugandan Parliament passed the bill, which punishes homosexuality with life in prison, on December 20, 2013. In January, President Yoweri Museveni stated he would most likely not sign it, prompting many LGBT supporters around the world to believe the bill will not become law. The Global Day of Action was organized to call attention to the fact that it could easily still be enacted and that diplomats and leaders worldwide need to pressure the President to finally kill this discriminatory bill. See what you can do to show your support below.
If the President simply does nothing, the bill will return to Parliament on February 23, when a two-thirds majority can make it law without his signature. According to representatives from Spectrum Uganda, an amfAR GMT Initiative grantee partner and one of the organizers of the Global Day of Action, the bill has more than 90% support in Parliament. However, the President could convince his party, which has the majority in Parliament, to drop the bill or ask for an extension for further consultation to prevent it from returning for a new vote in February. “We need to let Uganda know, through this Day of Action, that the world is watching,” states the call to action issued by Uganda’s Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights & Constitutional Law.
Even in this state of legal limbo, the bill’s negative impact has begun. “There has been an increase in the number of arrests, in intimidation, in public outings by the media, of harassment in public spaces and work places and by landlords, and of mob justice and religious hate speeches,” says Moses Kimbugwe, programs and advocacy director at Spectrum Uganda. “Some of our clients have been arrested and our peer educators are in hiding.”
The bill punishes homosexuality with life in prison.
Same-sex sexual behavior has been illegal in Uganda since British colonial times. This bill not only increases the severity of the prison sentence, but also criminalizes the “promotion of homosexuality,” a category that could include HIV outreach and services targeting GMT. Spectrum Uganda, which last year provided HIV services to more than 500 members of the GMT community, has already been forced to shut down its HIV outreach and health services due to safety concerns.
If the bill becomes law, government and private healthcare providers that Spectrum and other advocates have trained to provide GMT-friendly HIV services will likely also no longer be able to do so. It will decimate the response among the community and significantly set back the fight against AIDS in the country, where the HIV rate, after steadily declining from the early 1990s to 2005, has begun to creep back up and is currently approximately 7% nationwide. The government does not track the HIV rate among GMT, so the exact rate is unknown, but is likely much higher than that of the general population.
When the bill was first introduced in Parliament in 2009, it called for punishing same-sex sexual conduct with the death penalty, giving it the nickname, the “Kill the Gays Bill.” That provision was removed in 2012 due to international pressure from high profile diplomats and leaders, including President Obama—the kind of pressure Spectrum and its partners are hoping the Day of Action will prompt. “Certain interest groups, some religious, some political, generate the fictions stated in this bill for their own purposes,” says Peter Katusab, the security and emergency officer at Spectrum Uganda. “And it shows that there are some very evil forces welling up in the Ugandan psyche. They are the same dynamics of the Rwandan genocide and Hitler’s Germany. It is most worrying.”
What you can do to stop this bill—not only today, but every day until it is permanently defeated:
Post on social media:
Tweet “Don’t prosecute; protect LGBT Ugandans: The world is watching” to these handles: @AmambaMbabazi, @Parliament_UG, and @StateHouseUg
Or post any message of support on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media using:
@Ugandans4rights, #AHBGlobaldayofaction, #Love4UgandanLGBTI, or #stopAHB
For these posts you can say this, or something like it:
“Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere: I stand in solidarity with the LGBTI community in Uganda. I stand on the side of human rights. I say NO to the anti-gay bill.”
You can also organize a protest or vigil, call your elected officials and ask what they are doing to fight the bill and protect the safety of LGBT living in Uganda, wear a t-shirt or badge stating your support, or start a petition. If you organize a protest or vigil, please contact the Ugandan Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law at firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know.