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Dear all, we welcome you to this blog, it is dedicated towards improving the dire situation of the lgbt persons in Uganda where discrimination, homophobia and sexism is currently at its peak. Join our cause and struggles as we make this world a better place for humanity.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Seeking Solutions to LGBT Discrimination in Uganda

Seeking Solutions to LGBT Discrimination in Uganda Posted by cgully on December 12, 2011 David Cameron (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons) Just over a month ago, British Prime Minister David Cameron turned a few heads by threatening to withdraw foreign aid to Uganda unless is adheres to “proper human rights” and ends bans on homosexuality. Similarly, last week the United States publicly stated its intention to use foreign aid to promote gay rights abroad with Hillary Clinton saying that “a country’s cultural or religious traditions are no excuse for discrimination.” While their intentions are laudable, the threat to withdraw aid to promote rights happily ignores continued discrimination at home, a nuanced understanding of the history of African colonization, and how to use foreign aid effectively. Time and time again we have seen that sanctions do little to influence regime change and this issue is no different. Homosexuality and other expressions of gender and sexual orientation remains one of the most divisive issues in international human rights. There has been progress toward achieving equality before the law in some countries, but even that progress is often marked by bitter social division and continued de facto inequality. As in many other areas of rights and equality, Canada has been mythologized as a champion, but reality somewhat belies the myth. Politicians continue to avoid discussing LGBT rights – the most glaring example being Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s thinly disguised rebuke of the yearly Pride Parade – and despite rhetoric of understanding and awareness raising, homophobia remains. Recent reports have shown that rates of attempted suicide among Canadians teens who self-identify as homosexual are up to four times higher than among their heterosexual counterparts due to harassment, bullying, and continued stigmatization. For our neighbours south of the border, the issue of sexual orientation remains a potentially powerful tool of divisive politics. A recent campaign ad by Republican leadership candidate Rick Perry draws a brilliantly ignorant and illogical link between President Obama’s repeal of the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy and secularism in public schools. While the video has done little but provide more carrion for the vultures who are already feasting on Perry’s long-dead campaign, the very fact that it was even created shows an appetite for homophobia among at least some proportion of the American public. Even Clinton acknowledged that it was only in 2003 that the last remaining state law criminalizing homosexual activity was abolished. All this is to say that LGBT rights in the west are relatively new, and it is something that both the law and society at large continue to struggle with. It is all the more shameful then that our leaders stand on soap boxes and threaten to cut aid to countries such as Uganda. Support for Cameron and Clinton’s remarks is coming from both sides: those who champion LGBT rights and wish to see greater awareness; and those who see foreign aid as a tool for influencing foreign governments to confirm to international norms. Neither of these camps is fundamentally wrong, but both assume that the issue can be only solved from the top down through political pressure. However that’s the kind of thinking that got us into this situation in the first place. When African heads of state argue that homosexuality is something imported from the west, they are not entirely wrong – but it is a matter of how we define homosexuality. There is evidence that same sex relationships were tolerated prior to colonization, from the boy-wives of the Kingdom of Sudan, to the “mine marriages” conducted by men working in the mines of what is now Zambia. There is even evidence of homosexual partnerships in an ancient Bushman painting from Zimbabwe. A great deal more anthropological support for same sex partnerships may have been unearthed if it weren’t for suppression of academic inquiry into the subject. Some scholars argue that while homosexuality in the west is tied to both sexual orientation and lifestyle, in traditional societies it was simply the case of having same sex intercourse, and did not necessarily involve self-identifying as something different. That is, homosexual as a label likely did not exist, and was imported by colonial powers who had codes based on archaic and outdated Abrahamic values. It is telling that the most widely cited piece of anti-homosexual legislation in Uganda is from the 1950 penal code that states “Any person who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; has carnal knowledge of an animal; or permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature, commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for life.” This law is a remnant of a British legal system imposed during colonization to prevent what the British saw as deviant sexual behaviour. How ironic then that some 150 years later we are condemning Uganda for its outdated beliefs. These are beliefs that we, as western society, had a hand in creating. To collectively punish the people of Uganda for a system that was imposed by force from the outside, indeed a system that wiped out millennia of rich cultural development, is hypocrisy and paternalism to the extreme. This is not all to say that something must not be done. Of course those laws that are on the books must be repealed, and continued attempts to pass even harsher legislation that increases punishment for the LGBT community must be blocked. However cutting off foreign aid is not the answer. In his best-selling book “The White Man’s Burden”, William Easterly argues that foreign aid is delivered by two types of organizations, Planners and Seekers. The traditional top-down aid to government Planner approach is often subject to increased bureaucracy, corruption, and lack of focus. The Seekers, however, tackle a problem from the grassroots level, looking to see what works efficiently, effectively, and reaches those who actually need it. When Cameron and Clinton talk about cutting foreign aid to Uganda, they are doing so because they want to punish the state; they are doing so based on the Planner assumption that the state receives the aid and distributes it as it sees fit. We have seen for decades how this doesn’t work. So if the west wants to champion LGBT rights in Uganda and other African states, it would do well to work with Seekers. Give money to those non-governmental organizations who already exist on the ground, those who can affect change from the inside, from the bottom up. Give aid to the activists who risk their lives daily to protect their communities, like Freedom and Roam Uganda or Icebreakers. Such aid is difficult politically, as it does not involve large sums that sound nice at international development summits, and it can raise the ire of governments who feel they are being undermined. But if the intent is to punish, then punish by giving weapons to those who are fighting for their freedom. If we can subversively arm rebels in Libya, then we can do the same with money and resources in Uganda. It was our culture that created this system of discrimination, and so it is our responsibility to help dismantle it. But that cannot be done through threats and sanctions; it must be done through compassion, generosity, and strategic thinking. y">

Friday, 27 July 2012


Ugandan Govt a threat to LGBT Community and other NGOs

Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) is one of the NGOs that now face a threat of closure after Ethics and Integrity Minister Rev Simon Lokodo accused them of promoting homosexuality.
PATIENCE AKUMU spoke to FHRI executive director, LIVINGSTONE SSEWANYANA, on why NGOs cannot stay away from gay rights. Ssewanyana maps the way forward for ‘blacklisted’ NGOs and explains why he believes this is more than a fight against homosexuality.

Are FHRI and other NGOs that Minister Lokodo named promoting homosexuality?
We are involved in minority rights issues. We are saying that all minorities, including homosexuals, deserve respect. Uganda has an obligation to preserve the rights of every citizen. The Constitution prohibits discrimination on all grounds — as does the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights (ICPR). Uganda signed the ICPR without any reservations. This means that it must respect all its provisions.

Perhaps government is furious because you are recruiting people into homosexuality.
We are not recruiting. We do not actively encourage people to become homosexuals.

But how can you promote a right to what is already illegal under the Penal Code Act?

The Penal code needs a lot of reform. It is our duty [as civil society] to campaign for reform. We are involved in other reforms, like the campaign to restore [presidential] term limits. The law generally needs to be reformed to promote non-discrimination.
The Constitution prohibits same-sex relationships, yet at the same time says that there shall not be discrimination based on colour, race, sex, religion or other factors. Such contradiction requires reform.  The Constitution contains other contradictions. For example, it provides for the death penalty under Article 22, and then prohibits torture and inhuman degrading treatment under Article 44.  We work to reform several areas of the law.

But for now, the law upholds the death penalty and prohibits homosexuality. Shouldn’t you respect that?
We acknowledge that that is the law, but we are also saying that this law is in conflict with the Constitution. We are saying minorities deserve respect and must be defended. This is different from encouraging people from getting involved in same-sex relationships. Our duty is to defend all rights.

If NGOs are so confident that homosexuals have rights, why haven’t they approached the Constitutional Court to iron out the contradictions and declare criminalising homosexuality unconstitutional?

We cannot do everything at the same time. Currently, we are challenging the death penalty, the offence of terrorism and pushing for electoral reforms. We have to take one step at a time.

Or perhaps you too realise that Uganda is not ready to embrace homosexuals. Is that why there is so much activism, but no NGO has taken this big step?
Right now, most NGOs are focusing on the Anti-Homosexuality bill and seeing that it is not passed. If it is passed, then definitely the only solution will be to go to the Constitutional Court. We cannot challenge a law unless it is passed.

Why don’t you, in the meantime, challenge S.145 of the Penal Code for criminalising homosexuality?
The Penal Code is currently before the Law Reform Commission. They are studying it to see which aspect needs to be reviewed. We think the Penal Code is not a good area for petition right now.

One would think the two High Court decisions upholding the rights of homosexual people would give NGOs more confidence. Are you afraid of Minister Lokodo?

The courts, like us, have looked at it through the perspective of the right not to be discriminated against — not through the homosexuality perspective. The issue of homosexuality was not directly brought before court. NGOs should go ahead and defend rights in spite of political threats. We are ready to challenge [threats] before Parliament, before the citizens and, if need be, before the Constitutional Court.

The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, has stated that homosexuals will never be accepted in Uganda. With the Anti-Homosexuality bill set to be debated in the House she heads, are you really not fighting a losing battle?

Kadaga, like any other person, is entitled to her views. The Anti-Homosexuality bill needs to come before the House and be debated, and all views and opinions heard. The difficult part would be for her to decide whether she wants to promote discrimination. She has to uphold the Constitution and the ICCPR.
These have non-discrimination clauses. It will do well to remember that Uganda signed the ICCPR without reservations.

Is there a legitimate reason for government to deregister NGOs? Surely, these arguments must hold some water.
I do not think there is a legitimate reason for government to deregister NGOs. The larger issue is whether Ugandans are entitled to freedom of expression, association and assembly. It’s about whether whoever wants to participate in governance issues must be registered. This issue of registration is contested. This is a broader democratic governance issue.

Are you saying this is a general attack on NGOs?

Of course, of course! I do not think it is fair for government to say that because NGOs are involved in advocating for minority rights, they should be closed. NGOs must not be partisan, but they must, by all means, be political — there is nothing in this country that is non-political.
If you want better food, better water, if you are fighting disease; all this is political. Besides, NGOs comprise individual citizens of Uganda. They have a right to monitor how their country is governed.

What place does the people’s culture and religion have in the fight for the rights of minorities?

Culture, religion, morality, values; this is the turning point of the current debate on human rights [not just homosexuals’ rights].  Societies have different value systems and religion has an important role to play. Christianity, for example, does not promote persecution. I don’t know of any religion that does.
African culture promotes tolerance and is welcoming. It is a question of individual attitudes. People have argued that the African child cannot learn unless she or he is caned. Is this true?
The Bible says, “Spare the rod and spoil the child”, but the government has outlawed corporal punishment in schools. Culture and religion preach that a woman has no value, but is this true? We have to interpret culture and religion positively. Besides, the Constitution provides that any culture or religion that contradicts it is void.
At the 1993 Vienna conference on human rights, states embraced the universality of rights. Anyone interpreting rights in the cultural relativist view with the intention of undermining them will not carry the day.

Would you still defend the rights of gay people if your own child was gay?
You know, we faced the same question when campaigning for the abolition of the death penalty. Would I feel differently if it was my own relative murdered? In this struggle for human rights, we should be guided by reason rather than emotion.
If the question of emotion is not left out of the debate, then the entire human rights question will be defeated.
Again, we are not campaigning for homosexuality, but for minority rights. We are not advocating for people to get killed, or for women to become belligerent when we defend their rights; we are only defending human dignity and human rights because the Constitution says so.

Won’t NGOs cower under so much pressure?
NGOs should do the right thing. If they are fighting for rights, then they must defend rights. We must educate people on the issue [homosexuality]. We should realise that some people are short, others tall, and others fat . . . Any government worth its value will respect the rights of all citizens.
The Ugandan government should get its priorities right. Ugandans want better service delivery, better quality life; we need a better economy. Pitted against these, homosexuality is a non-issue. But government is assessing non-issues and using them to deny people their rights. We should now focus on term limits, because their absence is causing political instability.