15 January 2010 The top United Nations human rights official today urged the Ugandan Government to do away with a “draconian” draft bill that would prohibit homosexual relations and contains provisions for punishing people alleged to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered.
The so-called ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’ was tabled by one member of the Ugandan parliament and is due to be put before the entire legislative body later this month. It prohibits any form of sexual relations between people of the same sex, as well as the promotion or recognition of homosexual relations as a healthy or acceptable lifestyle in public institutions.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned that the bill would bring Uganda into a “direct collision” with established international human rights standards aimed at preventing discrimination, according to a news release issued by her office.
“The bill proposes draconian punishments for people alleged to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered – namely life imprisonment or, in some cases, the death penalty,” said Ms. Pillay.
It also contains a provision that could lead to a prison sentence of up to three years for anyone who fails to report within 24 hours the identities of any lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered individual they know – including members of their own family – or who overtly supports the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered people.
“It is extraordinary to find legislation like this being proposed more than 60 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – as well as many subsequent international laws and standards – made it clear this type of discrimination is unacceptable,” Ms. Pillay noted.
Describing the bill as “blatantly discriminatory,” the High Commissioner said that, if passed, it would have “a tremendously negative impact on the enjoyment of a range of fundamental human rights by homosexuals, lesbians and transgendered individuals, as well as on parents, teachers, landlords, human rights defenders, medical professionals and HIV workers.”
The High Commissioner added that she was “encouraged” by the fact that a number of Ugandan civil society groups were actively opposing the bill, and by the recent statement by President Museveni, reported in the Ugandan press, which appeared to suggest the Government would intervene to prevent the draft bill from becoming law.
“This is the only responsible course of action for a government to take in such circumstances,” she said, while also urging the Government repeal existing Ugandan laws that criminalize homosexuality, albeit with less severe punishments.
Ms. Pillay also voiced concern that a gay couple in Malawi who were engaged to be married were being prosecuted and had been denied bail by the court.
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