African civil society condemns the signing of the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law

Posted by ARASA on February 27, 2014

Statement – African civil society condemns the signing of the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law

Windhoek, 26 February 2014 - The AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) strongly condemns the signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law by the President of Uganda, His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, on 24 February 2014.

The controversial Anti-Homosexuality Act provides for a life sentence for people who are guilty of “the act of homosexuality” and “aggravated homosexuality”, where living with HIV is an aggravating factor. In addition, organizations that “promote homosexuality” can have their registration revoked and their directors imprisoned for up to 7 years.

Uganda, which has previously shown leadership in the HIV response by being one of the first African countries to provide widespread access to prevention, treatment and care in the early years of the epidemic has, with the passing of this law, effectively ensured that any gains made will be reversed. Contrary to the provisions of Uganda’s own Constitution, the passing of this law goes against its purported aim of protecting the Ugandan people as it violates basic human rights, including the rights to equality, autonomy, bodily integrity and privacy of people in consensual adult same sex relations, especially those living with HIV.

 

“Provisions in the law that make it an offence to ‘promote’ homosexuality place unacceptable limitations on the rights to freedom of expression and association,” stated Michaela Clayton, Director of ARASA.  “The law effectively allows the government to shut down, or refuse to register, civil society organizations and media houses that engage in any activities that are deemed to support ‘homosexuality and related activities’, including advocating for or disseminating health information for men and women engaging in adult consensual same sex sexual intercourse.”

It not only undermines proven prevention, treatment and care efforts targeted at vulnerable populations such as men who have sex with men, but also places them at greater risk both of HIV and of persecution, harassment, violence and even death.

The passing of this law also goes against the recent recommendations of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, whose members included prominent African leaders such as Festus Gontebanye Mogae, former President of Botswana. The report recommends that, in order “to ensure an effective, sustainable response to HIV that is consistent with human rights obligations, countries must prohibit police violence against key populations. Countries must also support programmes that reduce stigma and discrimination against key populations and protect their rights.”