Dec. 11, 2012 | Press Releases

Uganda: HRF Condemns Anti-Homosexuality Bill Returning to Parliament

New York (December 11, 2012)—The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) condemns the 2009 Anti-Homosexuality Bill (henceforth referred to as “the Bill”) once again being brought before the Ugandan Parliament. Although same sex relations are already illegal in the country—with penalties of seven years to life in prison—the Bill would act to enforce and promote further discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation, with measures that include, among others: a legal requirement to report knowledge of “homosexual activities;” the criminalization of the “promotion” of homosexuality; the introduction of a series of new criminal offenses; and the nullification of any and all international treaties inconsistent with the Bill.

Uganda: HRF Condemns Anti-Homosexuality Bill Returning to Parliament

“There is speculation over whether the current Bill being discussed has dropped the death penalty as a punishment for aggravated homosexuality offenses,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. “Even if that is the case, the remaining provisions of the Bill and other current laws in Uganda which promote discrimination against homosexuals are still shameful and unacceptable. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against any form of unreasonable government interference in their private lives,” said Halvorssen.

The Bill prohibits “any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex,” and introduces a series of new and related criminal offenses. Currently, the Ugandan Penal Code of 1950 criminalizes homosexuality as an “Unnatural Offense,” under chapter XIV about “Offences against Morality.” According to the code, the offense is perpetrated when “any person […] has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature […] or permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature.”

The Bill aims to criminalize the “promotion” of homosexual relations, as well as obligate a person in authority to report the “offense” within twenty-four hours of having knowledge of it or face a fine or imprisonment. The Bill would also nullify “[a]ny international legal instrument” adhered to by Uganda—specifically, international treaties, protocols, declarations and conventions—“whose provisions are contradictory to the spirit and provisions enshrined in this Act.”

According to HRF, these legal provisions would further violate Uganda’s obligations under Article 17 (right to privacy) and Article 26 (protection against discrimination) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Uganda ratified in 1995.

“The government of Uganda’s determination to maintain homosexuality as a criminal offense violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Furthermore, its sweeping decision to nullify ‘all inconsistent’ international legal instruments violates the pacta sunt servanda international law principle, under which agreements must be kept and honored in good faith,” said Javier El-Hage, international legal director of HRF. “Article 26 guarantees equal and effective protection against discrimination to all persons on any ground and Article 17 protects against arbitrary or unlawful state interference with privacy,” concluded El-Hage.

HRF protects and promotes human rights. HRF believes that all human beings are entitled to freedom of self-determination, freedom from tyranny, the rights to speak freely, to associate with those of like mind, and to leave and enter their countries. Individuals in a free society must be accorded equal treatment and due process under law, and must have the opportunity to participate in the governments of their countries; HRF’s ideals likewise find expression in the conviction that all human beings have the right to be free from arbitrary detainment or exile and from interference and coercion in matters of conscience. HRF does not support nor condone violence. HRF’s International Council is chaired by pro-democracy activist Garry Kasparov, and includes former prisoners of conscience George Ayittey, Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Ramón J. Velásquez, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.

Contact: Jamie Hancock, jamie@thehrf.org, 212-246-8486