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Archive for April, 2014

(Originally published in the Special LGBTI issue of Pambazuka News)

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Uganda President Yoweri Museveni has justified the anti-gay bill as necessary in order to defend society from disorientation.

 

It was on the day meant to celebrate romantic love worldwide that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni announced to members of his party that he would sign the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law. The Valentine’s Day announcement by the President might have increased his popularity at home but the law itself is patently unconstitutional. The law is in clear violation of Section 29 of Uganda’s Constitution protecting freedom of expression, conscience, and belief. It states that only marriages between a man and a woman would be recognised and homosexual behaviour and related practices would be prohibited and penalised. The law also prohibits ratification of any international treaties, conventions, protocols, agreements, and declarations which are contrary or inconsistent with the provisions of the Act and prohibits the licensing of organisations that ‘promote’ homosexuality.

Only last month, in Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan approved the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill 2013, effectively banning gay marriage, same-sex partnerships, and participation in gay rights groups. In Nigeria, same-sex sexual acts, including touching in public, merit a life sentence in prison under the new law. The same is the case with not reporting homosexual people to the authorities. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, condemned the Nigerian law saying, “Rarely have I seen a piece of legislation that in so few paragraphs directly violates so many basic, universal human rights.”

Of the 19 African countries that are part of the Commonwealth, 17 have laws which criminalise homosexuality

What we are witnessing now is a wave of new legislation reinforcing prejudices imbibed from colonial-era laws that criminalise same-sex sexual relations. Uganda and Nigeria already had laws that criminalised homosexuality; these new laws go a step further by enhancing existing penalties. In fact, of the 19 African countries that are part of the Commonwealth, 17 have laws which criminalise homosexuality. Rwanda and South Africa are the only two African Commonwealth countries which do not have such legislation. This is not surprising given that 80 percent of Commonwealth member states have laws criminalising private consensual same-sex sexual relations.

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