by Rex Wockner
International News Briefs
Members of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights have strongly denounced the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009” pending in Uganda’s Parliament.
“The proposed legislation includes provisions to punish those alleged to be lesbian, gay or bisexual with life imprisonment and, in some cases, the death penalty; any parent or teacher failing to report their LGBT children or pupils to the authorities with a fine equivalent to $2,650 or three years’ imprisonment; and landowners providing shelter to LGBT people with seven years’ imprisonment,” the MEPs said Nov. 9.
Intergroup Co-President Michael Cashman called the bill “deeply worrying.”
Co-President Ulrike Lunacek said: “I strongly appeal to Ugandan politicians to be as courageous as they were when overthrowing the Idi Amin regime, and not to ban Ugandan citizens from being free to love whomever they wish. Homosexuality is nothing un-African; it has existed at all times and in all cultures.”
In the U.S., lesbian U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and three other members of Congress have sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to use the full force of her office to condemn the bill.
“This egregious bill represents one of the most extreme anti-equality measures ever proposed in any country and would create a legal pretext for depriving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ugandans of their liberty, and even their lives,” Baldwin wrote, joined by House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chair Howard Berman (D-Calif.), Vice Chair Gary Ackerman, (D-N.Y.) and Ranking Minority Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.). “This bill is wholly unacceptable.”
With gay sex already banned under penalty of life in prison, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill aims to erase any appearance or hint of gayness from the nation. Calling for penalties that range from three years in prison to execution, the bill criminalizes touching anyone in a gay way; funding or sponsoring gay organizations; broadcasting, publishing or marketing gay material; homosexual advocacy; “aggravated homosexuality”; and the failure by any person to report to police his or her awareness of the existence of a gay person within Uganda’s borders within 24 hours of learning that the homosexual exists.
The legislation also targets gay Ugandans who get married abroad. They would be imprisoned for life if they dared return home.
On Nov. 19, Human Rights Watch, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Health GAP and other organizations will stage a demonstration against the bill outside the Ugandan Consulate in New York City at 12:30 p.m. Similar protests are planned in Copenhagen, Ottawa, Pretoria and Washington, D.C.
“The new bill (uses) life imprisonment to punish anything from sexual stimulation to simply ‘touch(ing) another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality,'” the groups said. “It also punishes ‘aggravated homosexuality’ – including activity by ‘serial offenders’ or those who are HIV-positive – with the death penalty. The bill criminalizes ‘promotion of homosexuality’ in the form of funding and sponsoring LGBT organizations; and broadcasting, publishing or marketing materials on homosexuality, and punishes these acts with a steep fine, 5-7 years of imprisonment, or both. Any person in authority who fails to report known violations of the law within 24 hours will also be subject to a significant fine and up to 3 years in prison – even when this means turning in their colleagues, family or friends. More shocking, the bill claims jurisdiction over Ugandans who violate its provisions while outside of the country.”
For the full text of the draconian measure, see http://tinyurl.com/hatebill. For information on how to help fight the bill, see http://tinyurl.com/iglhrc-ug. For Human Rights Watch’s analysis of the bill, see http://tinyurl.com/hrw-ug.