ISHR condemns Ugandan president’s signing into law of anti-homosexuality bill

24.02.2014

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, has today signed into law the draconian ‘anti-homosexuality’ bill, putting Uganda in flagrant violation of its international human rights obligations, the International Service for Human Rights said today.

(Geneva) - Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, has today signed into law the draconian ‘anti-homosexuality’ bill, putting Uganda in flagrant violation of its international human rights obligations, the International Service for Human Rights said today.

'The Anti-Homosexuality bill will have wide-ranging and devastating impacts on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. We condemn its signing into law,' ISHR Director Phil Lynch said.

The signing of the bill comes in the face of fierce opposition to the legislation from within Uganda, across Africa and around the world.

The law criminalises a wide range of activities that are expressly protected by international law, including same-sex relations and the 'promotion of homosexuality'. Entry into a same-sex marriage is punishable by life imprisonment.

‘This is a major step backwards not only for LGBT Ugandans, but for all Ugandans. In signing this bill into law President Museveni has shown scant regard for international human rights law, including the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, all of which are fundamental pillars of a safe, secure and democratic society,' said Dr Heather Collister of ISHR.

ISHR is particularly concerned that the Anti-Homosexuality Act will lead to an increase in homophobic violence, discrimination and harassment.

‘We are deeply concerned that this piece of legislation not only criminalises same-sex relations and institutionalises discrimination, but also implicitly condones homophobic violence and harassment,’ Dr Collister said.

Even before the final assent by the President today, the bill was already linked to an increase in the arrest, harassment and assault of suspected LGBT persons in Uganda.

ISHR is also deeply concerned at the Act’s provisions relating to the 'promotion' of homosexuality, which make it an offence to stand up or speak out for LGBT rights.

‘In addition to targeting same-sex relations, the legislation targets human rights defenders who take a take stand for equality and against discrimination, effectively criminalising their work,’ Mr Lynch said.

'Human rights defenders play a crucial role in the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. Their work is vital to developing an inclusive, healthy and prosperous society. The criminalisation of their work is not only contrary to Uganda's obligations under the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, but a backward step for democracy and development in Uganda,' Mr Lynch said.

The signing of the bill comes a month and a half after harsh anti-homosexuality legislation was signed into force in Nigeria.

Contact: Phil Lynch, Director, International Service for Human Rights, on + 41 76 708 4738 or p.lynch@ishr.ch; or Dr Heather Collister on h.collister@ishr.ch or +41 799 20 38 05

Photo: Jessica Rinaldi, Reuters