Uganda: To live without fear and in peace

Victor Mukasa of SMUG Uganda shares his experience as human rights defender and gives an overview of the criminalisation of LGBTI people across Africa. Finally he calls on everyone where ever they are to publicly denounce the anti-homosexuality bill which is before the Ugandan parliament. There are reports that President Museveni will intervene to stop the passing of the law. This cannot be relied on as for one thing he has yet to make public statement on the Bill. He has been vehemently homophobic in the past and there is no reason to imagine this has changed. Even the Archbishop of York has only managed a mild criticism of the bill though he claims to be working “behind the scenes” together with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Nonetheless his opposition seems to be based on the fact that laws are already in place and not an outright condemnation of the criminalisation of LGBTI people. This is pathetic and unacceptable from someone who is the second highest Anglican Bishop in the UK and a Ugandan by birth.

As a background to my presentation, I would like to bring to your attention that 38 countries in Africa criminalize sexual acts between persons of the same sex under sodomy laws. These laws are in some states inherited by their colonial masters and for some Islamic states, these laws fall under Sharia law. The penalties for breaking these laws range between imprisonment for one year to life and in some countries, for example, Sudan and Northern Nigeria the penalty is death.

Recently, some African states, such as Burundi and Rwanda that did not have sodomy laws in their penal code acts have made efforts to include these laws. Burundi has managed to achieve this, while in Rwanda, a revision of the penal code act in which homosexuality is criminalized has been tabled in Parliament and could be passed as law soon. Uganda and Nigeria too have recently proposed legislation that further exacerbates already alarmingly harsh penalties for homosexuality.

In states that do not criminalize homosexuality and even in South Africa, the only country in Africa whose constitution recognizes sexual orientation and gender identity, LGBT people are increasingly facing violence and hate crimes. In most of these countries, religion is the instrument of oppression……….

I appeal to you all, to extend your human rights promotion work to all the corners of the earth. We cannot claim that we have been successful in our human rights work when people are still killed because they are gay, transgender, intersex, albino, indigenous, black, or poor. More urgently, as a Ugandan homosexual and transgender person, on behalf of all Ugandan LGBTI people, I appeal to you all to publicly denounce the anti homosexuality bill that is before Parliament.
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