Statement from Ugandan LGBT coalition; Judge rules against Rolling Stone

It was an eventful day in Uganda. The Rolling Stone distributed part 2 of their “hang the gays” tabloid, and a Ugandan judge ordered the tabloid to cease outing gays. Just a bit ago, Sexual Minorities Uganda made the following comments and press release.

Kampala.  2.11.2010

Uganda: Court issues an interim order restraining the “ROLLING STONE”

In two of its publication issue No 5 and Issue no 6. The Rolling Stone a Ugandan weekly Tabloid., “outed” Uganda  LGBTI People. These outings increased hostility and harassment for LGBTI Ugandans.

In response Sexual Minorities Uganda – SMUG, the Ugandan LGBTI community and the civil society coalition on human rights and constitutional law sued the Rolling Stone.

Before His Lordship Justice V.F  Musoke Kibuka in the presence of  Ms. Sengendo Rose Counsel for the applicant at the high court of Uganda.

The Court issued an interim order restraining the respondents, their servants and agents, from any further publication in the publication called ROLLING STONE or any  other publications  by the respondents , their agents or servants, the identities by name or pictures or any relevant implication of the person or person perceived by the respondents to be gay, lesbian or homosexual in general.

The Interim Order is to remain in place till the hearing and disposal of Misc Cause No. 163 of 2010

Costs on the cause.

The Rolling Stone editorial team was not in court; hearing for the case has been scheduled for 23rd .11 . 2010.

And then the press release…

PRESS RELEASE

KAMPALA – November 01, 2010

GAY ACTIVISTS SUE THE ROLLONG STONE TABLOID

The Ugandan Rolling Stone tabloid published an article entitled “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak” calling for “the hanging of homos” in Uganda in its issue of Vol.1, No. 5, 2 – 9 October, 2010. This article shows pictures of some of the 100 alleged homosexuals and other Human Rights Activists, alongside their names and a description of their professional jobs and private life, including where they live or work.

The publication has affected the day to day lives of the individuals mentioned and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender [LGBTI] community as a whole. Therefore Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender human rights activists have taken the tabloid to the High court.

Through this litigation the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community is seeking to bring to an end the violations. They will also educate and raise awareness that everyone in this society deserves and should be protected by the government and the law irrespective of race, age, color, tribe, creed, sexual orientation and gender identity.

We call on;

1. The MEDIA to immediately desist from using press freedom to incite violence against any person.

2. The Government of Uganda to intervene immediately and take all appropriate measures to put an end to this blatant incitement to public violence against a particular group of citizens.

3. The Government of Uganda should recognize and seize the opportunity to ensure the protection of human rights, which is entrusted to its authority, and uphold the Ugandan Constitution as well as the international and regional Human Rights Instruments to which Uganda is a signatory.

For further information please contact:

Frank Mugisha –

fmugisha@sexualminoritiesuganda.org

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill one year later

On October 14, 2009, David Bahati tabled the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda’s Parliament. As of now, it remains in committee awaiting a second reading. On this ocassion, LGBT groups in Uganda have issued a press release, which follows:

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

KAMPALA – UGANDA

One Year since the introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill – 2009

On October 14, 2009 the draft Anti Homosexuality Bill was introduced to the Parliament of Uganda by Ndoorwa West MP David Bahati. Mr Bahati’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill stipulates the death penalty for repeated same-sex relations and life imprisonment for all other homosexual acts. A person in authority who fails to report an offender to the police within 24 hours will face 3 years in jail. Likewise, the promotion of homosexuality carries a sentence of 5 to 7 years in jail.

This Bill is an expression of prejudice, intolerance, discrimination and violence. The bill abuses the dignity, privacy and equality of people with a different sexual orientation and identity other than heterosexual. If passed into law, it will further legitimize public and private violence, harassment and torture.

It has promoted hate-speech in churches, schools and the media. It has led to defamation, blackmail, evictions, intimidation, arbitrary arrests and unlawful detention, physical assault, emotional and mental assault of LGBT activists, our families and allies.

The bill has further led to increased violence incited by local media, particularly The Red Pepper tabloid and recently launched Rolling Stone newspaper. The headline of the Rolling Stone viciously screamed “100 pictures of Ugandan’s top homos leak- Hang them” in their Vol. 1 No. 05 October 02-09, 2010. They published pictures, names, residences and other details of LGBT activists and allies.

“When my neighbors saw my picture in the paper, they were furious. They threw stones at me while I was in my house. I was so terrified somehow I managed to flee my home to safety.” said Stosh [Programme Coordinator- Kulhas Uganda]

The sad truth is that most evil in Uganda is done by people who end up never being held accountable for their deeds. The Rolling Stone publication has incited violence against a group of minorities making them seem like less of HUMAN BEINGS” Gerald [Admin – SMUG].

The bill constitutes a violation of the right to freedom of privacy, association, assembly and security of the person as enshrined in Constitution of Uganda’s and International Human Rights Law.

The impact of such legal and social exclusion is being felt in the lives of LGBTI Ugandans. Sexual Minorities Uganda strongly condemns such laws and media witch-hunt of homosexuals.

We would like to acknowledge Human Rights institutions and activists, local, regional and international Civil Society, Development partners and friends around the world for the  enormous support to the Uganda LGBTI community and request for your continued call to African governments to repeal the ‘sodomy laws’.

Contacts:

Frank Mugisha                                                Pepe Julian Onziema

fmugisha@sexualminoritiesuganda.org        jpepe@sexualminoritiesuganda.org

///

Has the Anti-Homosexuality Bill been amended?

Vanity Fair is reporting that Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been amended:

Yet as the Ugandan government prepares to launch its latest anti-gay offensive, the local gay-rights movement is needed more than ever. Though widespread international criticism, especially from the United States, derailed the bill in its original form and forced Uganda to drop its death-penalty provision, parliament is set to discreetly pass amendments that would prevent all residents and local and international non-profit organizations from “promoting,” advocating, or associating any of their activities with homosexuality.
On the removal of the death penalty, I checked with Frank Mugisha, who was quoted in the article. Frank did not know anything about any such amendments or real changes to the bill. Based on what Frank said and what other sources there have not said, I believe it is premature to say the death penalty has been removed or what strategy may be pursued.
The only evidence of a change of direction I have seen and which Frank also mentioned derives from the Cabinet report authored by Minister of Local Government Adolf Mwesigye. The recommendations in that report seem to be what the Vanity Fair article refers to as a settled strategy. The Cabinet committee seemed to favor Article 13 which referred to promotion of homosexuality:
The Mwesigye report then made several recommendations to the Cabinet:
Vanity Fair seems to be assuming that the Cabinet report has been adopted although no source is given for that assumption. As of now, I know of no official amendments or revised bills. As noted by the VF article, Parliament is back in session. It is interesting to note that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is not one of the bills slated to be considered in this session.

Uganda gay leader says Associated Press misquoted him; group not partisan

The New York Times this morning ran this Associated Press story on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that did not make sense to me.

Ugandan President Urges Softening of Anti-Gay Bill

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published: January 7, 2010

Filed at 7:12 a.m. ET

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — A provision that would impose the death penalty for some gays is likely to be removed from the proposed legislation following opposition from Uganda’s president, the country’s ethics minister said Thursday.

President Yoweri Museveni has told colleagues he believes the bill is too harsh and has encouraged his ruling National Resistance Movement Party to overturn the death sentence provision, which would apply to sexually active gays living with HIV or in cases of same-sex rape.

The proposed bill, though, says anyone convicted of a homosexual act would face life imprisonment and it is unclear whether Museveni supports that provision or not.

Gay rights activists say the bill promotes hatred and could set back efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in the conservative East African country. Protests already have been held in London, New York and Washington.

”The death penalty is likely to be removed,” said James Nsaba Buturo, Uganda’s minister of state for ethics and integrity. ”The president doesn’t believe in killing gays. I also don’t believe in it. I think gays can be counseled and they stop the bad habit.”

Ruling party spokeswoman Mary Karoro Okurut said she also agrees with the president that some punishments in the bill should be dropped. But she said she will still push for a modified version of the bill when it comes to parliament in late February or early March.

”Although the president is against some parts of the bill, the bill has to stay,” she said. ”(Homosexuality) is not allowed in African culture. We have to protect the children in schools who are being recruited into homosexual activities.”

Frank Mugisha, leader of Sex Minorities Uganda, said the gay-rights group will campaign for and support President Yoweri Museveni in the 2011 polls because of his opposition to the bill’s harsher provisions.

”If one scratches your back you also scratch his back,” Mugisha said. ”Museveni’s action shows that he is a true democrat. As a head of state he is doing the right thing of protecting all interests of its citizens including those of the minorities.”

The group said it has received a growing number of complaints of harassment from gays and lesbians across the country since the legislation was first proposed.

Julian Peppe, the group’s program coordinator, said she was chased by a crowd of angry people while trying to leave a supermarket on Christmas Eve in the capital.

”I can no longer move out of my house due to fear of being beaten up by people,” Peppe said.

The measure was proposed in Uganda following a visit by leaders of U.S. conservative Christian ministries that promote therapy for gays to become heterosexual. However, at least one of those leaders has denounced the bill, as have some other conservative and liberal Christians in the United States.

The Catholic church in Uganda has said it supports the bill but not the death penalty provision.

But a group of non-traditional churches has accused Museveni of siding with gays and maintains that the Bible supports killing gays. The churches accuse the president of bowing to pressure from Uganda’s many international donors.

”If Museveni manages to convince parliament to drop the anti-gay bill, that will be the worst tragedy to befall Uganda,” said Pastor Solomon Male, the chairman of the church coalition, Arising for Christ. ”Uganda should not dance to the tune of donors. We have our values to protect.”

Anglican Archbishop of York John Sentamu, who is one of the global fellowship’s most senior priests, has said he condemns the proposed law in his native country.

This section did not ring true:

Frank Mugisha, leader of Sex Minorities Uganda, said the gay-rights group will campaign for and support President Yoweri Museveni in the 2011 polls because of his opposition to the bill’s harsher provisions.

”If one scratches your back you also scratch his back,” Mugisha said. ”Museveni’s action shows that he is a true democrat. As a head of state he is doing the right thing of protecting all interests of its citizens including those of the minorities.”

I called Frank Mugisha to ask if he was quoted correctly and he said no, he was not quoted correctly. He said he did not say, ‘if one scratches your back, you also scratch his back.’ He also noted that Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUg) does not support specific political parties, saying

We are not political. As an organization, we don’t support any party. Like all Ugandans, some of our members support one party, and others support another party.

Regarding President Museveni, Mugisha said he did not know what stance he had taken. His comment to the reporter was meant to be a hypothetical statement, saying

I said, ‘if the President protects gays, then he is being democratic.’ We do not know yet what he is going to do.

Apparently, the leaders of the pastor’s coalition believe Museveni might thwart the bill based on their comments but I am not really sure what to believe after reading this article. Apparently Minister Buturo is inclined to recommend some kind of counseling or assistance in place of death but it is not at all clear what the specific changes will be.

Ugandan gay groups issue statement opposing sexual abuse and exploitation of minors

The supporters of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 often say that restrictions are needed on homosexuality because gays seek to recruit children into sex. I asked Val Kalende for a comment on these allegations and she sent this statement in the form of an official policy statement.

Note that this statement makes clear that the homosexual community as represented by this statement oppose coercion and recruitment of children into sexual activities. Also note that existing law punishes those who engage in sexual activities with minors, whether the offense is against a girl or a boy. These persons agree with the need to impose penalties on sexual abuse and exploitation of minors.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FREEDOM AND ROAM UGANDA STATEMENT ON SEXUAL ABUSE AND EXPLOITATION OF MINORS.

Our movement recognizes violence, harassment and sexual abuse of minors as violation of human rights.  As a  movement of people who stand for social justice, we express profound dismay at any form of sexual abuse whether hetero or homosexual.

We share Hon. David Bahati’s desires as expressed in the preamble of Bill 18:

  1. To strengthen the nation’s capacity to deal with emerging internal and external threats to the family unit.  It is nevertheless important to point out that most of these can hardly be realized through the regulatory mechanism of the law.
  2. To protect the cherished culture of the people of Uganda, particularly the positive aspects of it.
  3. To protect Ugandan children and youth who are vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation—whether hetero or homosexual.

However, while we agree that we must seek ways of dealing with issues that threaten our families, we do not agree that consensual adult homosexual relationships is one of those issues.  It is therefore our humble opinion that the Bill be unpacked and scrutinized so as to avoid a law that will be used to discriminate people who are not harming anyone. There is need to separate the concept of consensual sex and non-consensual sex. In other words, we implore Hon. Bahati to withdraw his private members Bill in its entirety. As Professor Ogenga Latigo, the Leader of the Opposition said of this ´kill-the-gays´ Bill, “we cannot plunge into a legislative process before looking at what is happening, the facts and what the trends are”. 

Homosexuals form a small group of people who, when people feel vulnerable, are blamed for all society’s problems. Gays have been blamed for the spread of HIV, including certain government officials saying ´Gays are not Government? priority in the fight against HIV & AIDS.´ Let it be understood: it’s not homosexuality that spreads AIDS; it is the culture that brutalizes gay men and forces them underground that spreads AIDS. To blame the spread of HIV on a minority group of people is burying our heads in the sand and failing to deal with the real problem facing our country.

Homosexuals are not the rapists and child molesters who pounce on unsuspecting family members. Research shows that over 50% of child sexual abuse reports involve children below the age of 10, and the perpetrators are heterosexual men. (Study cited in Uganda Youth Development Link, Report on Sectoral Study on Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Uganda, Commissioned by the International Labour Organisation and the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development- January 2004)

The 2006 national study on Domestic Violence by Law Reform Commission confirmed that 66% domestic violence (2006 national study on Domestic Violence of people in all regions of Uganda reported that Domestic Violence occured in their homes and the majority of the perpertratpors were ´male heads of household´. ( See Law Reform Commission, A Study Report on Domestic Violence, April 2006 at p.112)

The millions of Ugandan children orphaned by HIV & AIDS.  The Uganda Aids Commission puts the cumulative number of orphans due to AIDS at 2 million. Homosexuals are not largely responsible for these figures since they are not considered as people who procreate. 

In addressing what Pastor Martin Ssempa and his group are peddling as ´Public Outcry´, first and foremost it is not true that the Penal Code provision on ´Aggravated Defilement´ does not cover abused boys. Section 129 (3)  clearly  says: ´Any person who performs a sexual act with another person who is below the age of eighteen years commit a felony called aggravated defilement´. It does not limit the legal protection to girls.

As a movement, we respect and value the rights of all human beings regardless of who they are, who they have sex with and how they have sex. We SHALL be behind any efforts seeking to curb sexual abuse against minors just as we are committed to supporting any efforts seeking to curtail sexual abuse against curative rape against lesbians, and the unrealistic religious fundamentalist agenda that seeks to demonize homosexual abuses over heterosexual abuses.

As Freedom and Roam Uganda we: 

  1. Totally oppose the Bill as a whole and therefore calls for its complete withdrawal.
  2. Do not support amendment of the Bill.
  3. Support criminalization of non-consensual sex, for example, rape and paedophilia, whether homosexual or heterosexual.
  4. Oppose the criminalisation of consensual sex between adults of sound mind.
  5. The Penal code should be amended to draw an effective distinction between consensual sex and non-consensual sex.

ISSUED BY:

Freedom and Roam Uganda- FARUG

Freedom and Roam Uganda is a member organisation of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a network of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people’s organisations based in Uganda.

For further details, contact:

Val Kalende

Freedom and Roam Uganda

Email: kalendenator@gmail .com

Frank Mugisha

Sexual Minorities Uganda

Email: fmugisha@sexualminoritiesuganda.org

It is wrong to conflate private adult homosexual conduct and sexual coercion or recruitment of minors. This statement is very clear that these groups oppose recruitment and oppose anyone of any sexual orientation who targets boys or girls.

Report from the Uganda conference on homosexuality: Open forum

Frank Mugisha is the chairperson of a gay advocacy group in Uganda called Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). An unnamed person from his group attended all of the meetings in Kampala and filed this report. Obviously, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of it and I think it should be considered one person’s impressions of the event. There are some issues raised in it however, which I am exploring and will probably post about in the future. For now, I am just going to post a link to the report and open the floor for comments.