Uganda Hires Firm to Burnish Image Internationally

Really? Uganda hired a firm to polish up the nation’s image around the world. Watch:

I don’t envy this firm.

Because of David Bahati and those who support him, Uganda is known around the world for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The attention from this bill leads to considerations of corruption and other human rights abuses.

If the bill passes, I suspect pressure will be brought to bear on corporations doing business in Uganda such as Citibank, and Barclays Bank (UK). Various hotel chains doing business there will be targeted. If Starbucks still imports coffee from Uganda, I can imagine an effort to have Starbucks find coffee from somewhere else.

 

Uganda Human Rights Coalition Opposes the Anti-Homosexuality Bill

A broad coalition of human rights advocacy organizations in Uganda issued a press release late yesterday. Here is the press release in full:

Press Statement

Uganda: Parliament Should Reject Anti-Homosexuality Bill

16th February 2012

On Tuesday 7th February 2012, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (2009) was reintroduced to the Parliament of Uganda. If passed, this draft legislation would violate the human rights of all Ugandans, and should immediately be dropped, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP), Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), The Human Rights Centre Uganda (HRCU), and Human Rights Network-Uganda (HURINET) said today.

Hon. David Bahati’s widely condemned private member’s bill is one of ten bills saved and reintroduced from the previous Parliament. The bill had its first reading on 7th February 2012 and was referred to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee for scrutiny. It is understood that the bill was re-tabled in its original form but that amendments recommended by the Committee last year will be incorporated. Although Hon. Bahati is reported in the media to have said that the death penalty for ‘serial’ acts of homosexuality will be dropped, this is not yet confirmed. EHAHRDP, FHRI, HRCU and HURINET express their concern at the lack of clarity surrounding the parliamentary process and contents of the bill, and call on Parliament to clarify on this matter.

EHAHRDP, FHRI, HRCU and HURINET recall the submission by the Uganda Human Rights Commission in its 2010 annual report that “some of the provisions in the bill are unnecessary, and that most of them violate international human rights standards.” The rejection of certain international standards envisaged in the 2009 bill sets a dangerous precedent regarding Uganda’s respect for the human rights commitments it has made.

The bill contains harsh provisions which would seriously restrict the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly and would threaten the ability of some human rights organisations to continue operating. Already, on 14th February the Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity, Hon. Rev. Fr. Lokodo Simon, ordered the unconstitutional shutdown of a capacity-building workshop organized by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) human rights defenders in Entebbe. The bill and such actions by government representatives reinforce the more general threats to civil society space in Uganda, such as the onerous regulation of public meetings and discussions sought to be introduced with the Public Order Management Bill.

As well as threatening the safety of LGBTI people generally, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill also jeopardizes the security of human rights defenders working on these issues. The re-tabling of the bill just days after the first anniversary of the murder of LGBTI activist and EHAHRDP founding member, David Kato, is a stark reminder of the insecurity this bill has already caused in Uganda.

More generally, the bill would have a wide-reaching and disturbing effect on the freedoms of the majority of Ugandans. If health professionals, spiritual leaders, teachers, business people, landlords, and many others in positions built upon trust and confidentiality fail to disclose to the authorities persons they suspect of being homosexual, under the provisions of this bill would also be targeted for prosecution themselves.

EHAHRDP, FHRI, HRCU and HURINET welcome the statement issued by the Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity on Wednesday 8th February that the bill “does not enjoy the support of the Prime Minister or the Cabinet.” We call on the authorities to ensure the physical safety of LGBTI community members and human rights activists and fulfill the commitment made by Uganda during the Universal Periodic Review in October 2011 to “take immediate concrete steps to stop discrimination and assaults against LGBT persons.”

EHAHRDP, FHRI, HRCU and HURINET call on the Members of Parliament, and all Ugandans, to reject this discriminatory and divisive bill and refuse to be distracted from the real pressing issues facing the country at this time, such as the debate over the exploitation of Uganda’s oil resources.

For more information, please contact:

Hassan Shire, Executive Director, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, on executive@defenddefenders.org or +256 772 753 753

Livingstone Sewanyana, Executive Director, Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, on fhri@dmail.ug or +256 414 510 263/498

Margaret Sekaggya, Executive Director, The Human Rights Centre Uganda, on hrcug@hrcug.org or +256 414 266 186

Mohammed Ndifuna, Chief Executive Officer, Human Rights Network-Uganda, on executive@hurinet.or.ug or +256 714 419 229

Uganda Law Society Opposes the Anti-Homosexuality Bill

I received this statement earlier today. Obviously, Uganda’s lawyers have great reservations about the Bahati bill.

 

UGANDA LAW SOCIETY VIEWS ON

THE ANTI HOMOSEXUALITY BILL

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill proposed to Parliament in 2009 would, if enacted into law, in its current state violate international human rights law and lead to further human rights violations.

The bill has been received with mixed feelings of both praise and strong criticism with  praise coming from the local populace and criticism from the international media, western governments, international and local gay rights, human rights, civil rights, and scientific organizations, world leaders, some Christian organizations including the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church of Canada.

The Uganda Law Society (ULS) is an institution that defends and promotes constitutionalism, the rule of law and the human rights of every Ugandan citizen. The ULS therefore in the same spirit acknowledges and defends 100% the rights of all citizens including the small percentage of the population living as homosexuals.

Predicted outcomes of this bill

If passed, the bill would institutionalize discrimination against those who are, or thought to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. It would also reinforce the existing legislation against consensual sex between individuals of the same sex which legislation is itself contrary to international human rights norms. The bill would further purport to criminalise the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality, compel HIV testing in certain circumstances, impose life sentences for entering into a same-sex marriage, introduce the death penalty for ‘aggravated’ homosexuality, as well as punish those who fail to report knowledge of any violations of its provisions within 24 hours.

Generally, the bill would violate the principle of non-discrimination and would lead to violations of the human rights to freedom of expression, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of association, liberty and security of the person, privacy, the highest standard of health, and to life. These rights are guaranteed under the Constitution of Uganda and in international and regional treaties to which Uganda is party, which include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter). Specifically under our Constitution the relevant provisions promoting protection and non-criminalization of minority activities as long as they are not contrary to the law are provided under –

Article 20(1) on inherent fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual; Article 21 on equality before and under the law in all spheres of political, economic, social and cultural life and in every other respect as well as the enjoyment of equal protection of the law. Further, Article 24 requires that no person shall be subjected to any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Discrimination and punishment basing on one’s sexual orientation is cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Article 29(1) (a), (b), (c), and (d) states every person shall have a right to freedom of speech and expression, freedom of thought, conscience and belief, freedom to manifest such practicewhich shall include the right to belong to and participate in the practices of any organization, freedom of association which shall include the freedom to form and join other civic organizations. The bill criminalizes all forms of publications and expression concerned or related to gay rights.

Article 36 requires the protection of rights of minorities in decision-making processes, and their views and interests shall be taken into account in the making of national plans and programs – the gay and lesbian community is a minority in Uganda.  And Article 45 saves other additional human rights and freedoms not specifically mentioned in the preceding articles and these rights include gay rights.

All these provisions when interpreted are to the effect that individual rights and freedoms should be respected as long as those rights don’t affect the enjoyment of other people’s rights.

The ULS is not in any way promoting homosexuality in Uganda but calling for the observance and protection of the rights of homosexuals as human beings, a minority group and as citizens of Uganda. We reckon that the spirit of the bill is for noble and moral intentions such as to protect the traditional family, children, youth and cherished cultural values among others. It should however be alive to the fact that we live in a multi–lateral society comprised of various rights, interests and freedoms and should either be tolerated, restricted but not criminalized or banished.

FOR GOD AND MY COUNTRY 

James Mukasa Sebugenyi

PRESIDENT – UGANDA LAW SOCIETY

Email: president@uls.or.ug

Oversight Hearings on DHHS Contraception Rule Broadcast Now (VIDEO)

Interested in the DHHS controversy over contraception?

Currently, hearings are being held with representatives of the Catholic church, and the Southern Baptists. A Jewish Rabbi is also testifying. From the website:

Chairman Issa Hearing Preview Statement

Americans of all faiths have a right to practice their religion free from the fear of persecution or harassment from their government. Our nation’s founders believed this and enshrined religious freedom into the First Amendment to the Constitution.

While some Americans may not feel that government mandates forcing them to pay for contraception are an infringement on their religious beliefs, others consider it to be an assault against their freedom of conscience. A government policy that encroaches on the conscientious objections of religious groups concerns all Americans who value the protections of the First Amendment. Today, the committee will hear testimony from leaders of different faiths. They are concerned that government, under this Administration, is encroaching on their First Amendment rights.

The Administration’s actions have forced us to confront a more fundamental question about the proper role of government in our lives.

This hearing is about basic question of religious freedom, and whether or not protection will be afforded to religious institutions who wish to follow their conscience in refusing to pay for products they find morally objectionable. I look forward to hearing from today’s witnesses.

Liberian Senate Leader Says Gay Legislation Not Needed

In what appears to be a quick move to downplay reports yesterday of draconian anti-gay legislation in Liberia, the Senate President Pro-tempore, Gbehnzongar Findley, said yesterday that no need exists for pro- or anti-gay legislation.

The President Pro-tempore of the Liberian Senate, Gbehnzongar Findley has said that there is no need for any legislation on the protection of gay and lesbian rights in the country.

Addressing his monthly press briefing on Thursday, Pro-tempore Findley said the issue of gay right is not an issue in Liberia as no one has been denied his/right to practice gay or lesbianism in the country.
Pro-tempore Findley clarified that the Constitution of Liberia guaranteed the right of everyone including those involved in same sex practices. “Are these being any act of discrimination against any of them; is there any discriminatory law against them or have they been disfranchised or are people throwing stone at them?” Pro-tempore Findley wondered.
He said as President Pro-tempore of the Liberian Senate any act of infinitive whether for or against will not fall under his gavel. He noted that the Constitution does not in any way infringe on the right of anyone including gay and lesbians. He said the organic law of the country guarantees such right and will not be the one to decide.
“There is no need for legislation for gay and lesbians right because it is in the law and if anyone feels that their right is being violated let them go to the court,” the Grand Bassa County Senior Senator averred.
I know very little about the situation for LGBT people there so I don’t know whether gays would share the Senator’s assessment of the situation.
Sen. Findley seems clear that he will not entertain proposals from either Senator Taylor or LGBT campaigners.

Now Liberia: Senator proposes death penalty for gays

In a conversation last year, David Bahati told me that other African nations had expressed interest in his Anti-Homosexuality Bill. I do not know whether or not Jewel Howard Taylor (ex-first lady of Liberia, now Senator) has seen Bahati’s bill but she is proposing a similar measure. According to the AFP:

MONROVIA — Former Liberian first lady Jewel Howard Taylor has introduced a bill making homosexuality liable to a death sentence, amid a raging debate over gay rights in the country, a lawmaker said Wednesday.

The bill submitted by former president Charles Taylor’s ex-wife, now a senator, also seeks to amend laws to prohibit gay marriage.

“No two persons of the same sex shall have sexual relations. A violation of this prohibition will be considered a first degree felony,” reads the proposed amendment to marriage laws.

First degree punishment can range from 10 years to life imprisonment to the death sentence, on the discretion of the judge.

Voluntary sodomy is already a criminal offence in the west African country and can result in up to three years imprisonment, according to a lawyer consulted by AFP.

George Tengbeh, a senator supporting the bill, said he hoped it would put an end to months of acrimonious public debate on gay rights.

Some additional background on Sen. Taylor’s actions…

A similar bill was offered in the Liberian House last week by Clarence K. Massaquoi. This article has some detail about the proposed Act:

The Act states among other things that immediately after the passage of the Act, Chapter 14, Sub-Chapter D of the New Penal Code will now be amended and that Section 2 Sub-Chapter 14.80 will be added to which states that a person is guilty of Same Sex Sexual practices if he/she has sexual intercourse with another person of the same gender (male/female) with or without the consent of either person.

The Act also states that a person is guilty if he/she purposefully engages in acts that arouses or tend to arouse another person of the same gender (male/female) to have sexual intercourse; willfully, and with total disregard to societal moral dignity, seduces, encourages, promotes another person of the same gender (male/female) to engage into sexual activities.
According to the proposed bill which has been sent into committee room for review, Same Sex Sexual Practices is a felony of the Second degree, and as such the trial of all cases under Chapter 14.80 shall be heard in open Court.
The bill was on the Liberian House agenda last week.

Ugandan Minister Defends His Raid of GLBT Conference

UG Pulse reports that the government Minister who raided a GLBT conference yesterday has defended his actions:

The Minister of Ethics and Integrity Fr. Simon Lokodo has defended his decision to raid a workshop being run by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists in Entebbe.

This follows condemnation of the act by Amnesty International and several LGBT organizations who said the ministers actions were an abuse of freedom of assembly guaranteed to every Ugandan.

But Fr. Lokodo says as the person mandated to maintain good morals in Uganda, it was his duty to ensure people do not meet to discuss “immoral acts” in public places like hotels.

He said he raided the workshop together with police and asked them to stop or go in their private homes and discuss their issues from there.

“This is an outrageous attempt to prevent lawful and peaceful activities of human rights defenders in Uganda,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

The Minister also attempted to order the arrest of Kasha Jacqueline Nabagasera, a prominent LGBT rights activist and winner of the 2011 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, who was forced to flee from the hotel.

The reasons for the attempted arrest were not immediately clear, but were reported to be linked to Kasha Jacqueline’s attempt to challenge the Minister’s actions.

“The Government of Uganda must protect all people against threats, violence and harassment irrespective of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

The move comes days after the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was re-tabled in the Ugandan Parliament.

Big Brother much?

Some video from yesterday on the matter:

Daily Monitor: GLBT conference raided by Uganda’s Ethics Minister

From Uganda’s Daily Monitor earlier today:

There was drama at Imperial Resort Beach Hotel in Entebbe today when State Minister for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo broke up a secret gay rights activists conference.

The two week conference organised by Freedom and Roam Uganda, an association that lobbies for the recognition of same sex relationships in Uganda ended prematurely when the minister ordered them to disperse.

“I have closed this conference because it’s illegal. We do not accept homosexuality in Uganda. So go back home,” Minister Lokodo told the participants.

If the authorities can raid a conference before it becomes against the law to have a conference, then what will happen if the Anti-Homosexuality Bill becomes law?

Apparently, the authorities attempted to arrest the leader of the conference.

Committee Chair: No Plans Set for Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Stephen Tashobya, chair of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of the Ugandan Parliament, told me yesterday that he had not scheduled consideration for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.  Asked if his committee would write a new report, or stick with the report issued during the last Parliament, Tashobya declined to say. “The committee will have a say on that and we will meet soon to decide how to proceed with all of the bills returned to the committee,” Tashobya explained.

When asked if he planned to have the anti-gay bill back to the floor of the Parliament within the required 45 day period, Tashobya expressed some reservations that he could guarantee that time table. He noted, “We have many bills which have a high priority, such as the Marriage and Divorce bill and other bills on commerce.”

Parliament rules require bills sent to committee to be acted on and returned for consideration within 45 days. Last year, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga warned committee chairs that they could face unspecified sanctions if this rule was not kept.

According to Parliament’s rules (see below), Tashobya could ask Parliament for more time if the committee has not prepared the necessary report within 45 days. At that point, Parliament could grant or decline the request. If the request is declined, Parliament could act on the bill at that point. If an extension is granted, the bill will be considered at the end of that period whether or not the committee’s work is complete.

When asked if he had been pressured by the Executive branch to go slow on the  anti-gay bill, Tashobya said he was unable to comment.

Tashobya, who was not at Parliament the day the bill was tabled, said he is aware that the bill has wide support among the MPs.

 

From Uganda’s Rules of Parliamentary Procedures

125. Delays with Bills

(1) Subject to the Constitution, no Bill introduced in the House shall be with the Committee for consideration for more than forty-five days.

(2) If a Committee finds itself unable to complete consideration of any Bill referred to it in sub-rule (1), the Committee may seek extra time from Parliament.

(3) Where extra time is not granted or upon expiry of the extra time granted under subrule (2), the House shall proceed to deal with the Bill without any further delay.

Anoka-Hennepin School District Ends Silence Policy Toward Sexual Orientation

UPDATE – 2/14/12: The school board placed this information on their website about the change (scroll down to see the approved policy):

The Anoka-Hennepin School District has a new policy designed to promote a respectful learning environment in which teachers facilitate student discussions of contentious topics in a balanced and impartial manner that encourages development of critical thinking and decision-making skills.

“I believe this policy is the best thing for Anoka-Hennepin and for all students,” said Board Chair Tom Heidemann, who went on to say it “takes away some of the confusion that existed in the previous policy.”

The School Board approved the Respectful Learning Environment – Curriculum Policy Feb. 13 following more than two months of discussion and hours of public input regarding replacement of the Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy (SOCP). Some teachers felt that the SOCP was confusing. Board members asked the administration to bring forward a new policy that would eliminate the confusion.

The board sought a policy that would address any issues that may be contentious instead of focusing on specific topics. (The new policy replaces the Religious Activities Policy as well as the SOCP.) They also wanted to ensure that staff would not attempt to persuade students to adopt a particular viewpoint, and to clarify that the board-adopted curriculum is the basis for education in district schools.

After rejecting an earlier proposal in December when public input revealed little support for it, staff developed the Respectful Learning Environment-Curriculum Policy and presented it to the board Jan. 23. According to Paul Cady, district general counsel, the new policy meets the intent of the board, responds to public input, and reflects academic research on how to best deal with issues of public controversy that may arise in the classroom.

“It’s not the district’s role to take a position on these issues and it’s not acceptable for professional staff to persuade students to adopt or reject any particular viewpoint,” said Chair Heidemann. This was one of several elements he felt were missing in the previous policy.

He also stressed that the district’s curriculum will not change as the result of adopting the Respectful Learning Environment – Curriculum Policy. “Curriculum changes only if there are four votes on this School Board,” Heidemann said.

Board member John Hoffman noted that the district has a transparent process for adopting curriculum and community members have the right to participate in that process.

Board members also stressed that the new policy emphasizes a safe and respectful learning environment for all students. “It gets to the intent of our founding fathers of this great state and ensures all are welcome to participate in this wonderful experience of free, public education,” said Hoffman

Board member Scott Wenzel stressed that by adopting the Respectful Learning Environment-Curriculum Policy the board removes a policy that singles out one minority group and establishes the dignity and self-worth of all students. “I believe our teachers always have the best interests of students at heart. [This policy] provides the reassurance that our teachers will continue to do that.”

The proposed policy opens with a commitment to a safe and respectful learning environment for all students and an education that respects all students and their families. It stresses that teachers must follow the board-adopted curriculum, which is based on state standards, and it acknowledges that political, religious, social or economic issues may be contentious in a learning environment “in which conflicting views are held by a broad segment of people in our schools, our community and our nation.”

The policy states that the district does not take positions on these issues and that staff shall not attempt to “persuade students to adopt or reject any particular viewpoint with respect to these issues.” When contentious issues are discussed in classrooms, it states that the discussions must be appropriate for the developmental level of students, related to the course content, and presented in a balanced manner with varying points of view. They should be designed to help students “think critically and develop decision-making skills and techniques for examining and understanding differing opinions.”

It closes by stating that in these discussions, staff “shall affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students.”

………

Earlier tonight, various news sources reported that the Anoka-Hennepin School Board was considering a replacement for their gag policy on teacher discussions of sexual orientation. The old policy forbid teachers from discussing with students aspects of sexual orientation as a reality.

(Read policy after the break)

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