"The Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009" (full bill text here) was introduced on October 14, 2009 by Ugandan Parliamentarian David Bahati. The bill has been roundly condemned by human rights groups around the world, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, The World AIDS Campaign, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
"This bill is a blow to the progress of democracy in Uganda. It goes against the inclusive spirit necessary for our economic as well as political development. Its spirit is profoundly undemocratic and un-African." -David Kato, Sexual Minorities Uganda.If passed, this measure will promote an unprecedented climate of discrimination and violence against Uganda's LGBT citizens. Among other things, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would:
- Provide for up to three-year jail sentences for anyone who does not report the LGBT citizens they know to Ugandan authorities.
- Outlaw HIV/AIDS awareness programs as a "promotion of homosexuality." Working for such programs would constitute a crime punishable by up to a three-year jail sentence.
- Impose a minimum sentence of life in prison for those found to be (by a lay witness or the police) having homosexual sex.
- Impose the death penalty on gay HIV-positive citizens found to be having sex.
For more background on this measure, please see this summary by Human Rights Watch.
Recently, in response to international scrutiny and criticism, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has signaled that he may be open to changes in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. (David Bahati, the bill's author, is a member of Museveni's ruling political party.) However, the main "compromise" being considered now entails lessening the aforementioned death-sentence punishment to a life-in-prison punishment. Needless to say, such a change would do nothing to mitigate the oppressive reach of this bill.
Human rights defenders across the world have made themselves clear: Nothing less than a complete rejection and withdrawal of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would be acceptable.
WHAT HAS THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION DONE (SO FAR)?
- On December 11, 2009, the White House released a statement condemning the measure. The key excerpt: "The President strongly opposes efforts, such as the draft law pending in Uganda, that would criminalize homosexuality and move against the tide of history."
- On December 14, 2009, during a speech at Georgetown University, Sec. of State Hillary Clinton said, "Governments should be expected to resist the temptation to restrict freedom of expression when criticism arises, and be vigilant in preventing law from becoming an instrument of oppression, as bills like the one under consideration in Uganda to criminalize homosexuality would do."
- On February 4, 2010, during an address at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama said: "…Surely we can agree that it's unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are, whether it's here in the United States, or, as Hillary mentioned, more extremely in odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda."
While the above statements are commendable, they are not enough. Uganda's LGBT citizens deserve the Obama administration's continuous and high-level attention and advocacy. Accordingly, we have created this petition site in order to make sure that stopping Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill becomes a first priority and to-do item on President Obama's 2010 international agenda.
WHAT IS THE AFRICAN GROWTH AND OPPORTUNITY ACT?
For more info on why we're asking the Obama administration to consider revoking Uganda's special tariff status under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, please see the press release below from Senator Ron Wyden (Oregon):
State Dept. to Wyden: Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Proposal Violates Human Rights StandardsProposal Clearly Jeopardizes Uganda's Trade Benefits
Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - Washington, D.C. - In response to appeals to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the State Department said that the anti-homosexuality bill being considered by the Ugandan Parliament is "a serious affront to internationally accepted human rights standards." This finding would impact the African country's eligibility for preferential trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a unilateral program that eliminates tariffs on African goods destined for the U.S. Furthermore, in the letter to Wyden the Department of State announced the launching of an inquiry into the practices of all African nations with respect to rights afforded to LGBT populations and the establishment of a task force to respond to LBGT issues worldwide.
"The best trade policy is designed to improve human living standards, and AGOA does this," Wyden said. "The Ugandan attack on their homosexual population is an offense against human liberty and must be opposed at every opportunity. This trade law presents just such an opportunity."
Wyden, who is chair of the Senate Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness, sent a letter to Secretary Clinton and USTR Kirk on January 12, 2010 asking the State Department to review the Ugandan proposal and to communicate with President Yoweri Museveni that passage of the bill will affect Uganda's beneficiary status under AGOA. Wyden has repeatedly discussed this issue directly with Clinton and Kirk. Under AGOA, beneficiaries must meet certain eligibility criteria including not engaging in "gross violations of internationally recognized human rights." Wyden argued to the Department of State that the Uganda proposal violates internationally accepted human rights and the response from the Department of State affirms Wyden's understanding of the AGOA law, indicating that this will be central issue in the annual review of Uganda's AGOA status.