Eight months ago, I stood shivering with my Ugandan colleagues on the steps of the Massachusetts federal court house. We had just witnessed the first hearing in the case Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) v. Lively—a suit filed by a group of Ugandan LGBTI rights organizations against American evangelist Scott Lively for his role in inciting the persecution of LGBTI Ugandans. Lively is well-known for advocating that homosexuality should be criminalized around the world.
At the time, we were cautiously optimistic that the case would move forward. Today, we are celebrating. Read More
Staff and friends of American Jewish World Service marching in the 2013 NYC Pride March.
Staff and supporters of American Jewish World Service hit the streets of New York City last week, joining the NYC Pride March and serving as the Jewish voice for LGBTI rights worldwide.
My colleagues and I were so excited to show our pride, celebrate the latest victory in the struggle for marriage equality in the U.S. (the Supreme Court decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8) and make it clear that our work will not be done until the human rights of people of all sexual orientations are respected worldwide.
Good news: A vote on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been delayed once again. Despite a promise by the Ugandan speaker of parliament to deliver the bill as a “Christmas gift to the nation,” it was repeatedly downgraded on parliament’s agenda.
Last Friday, parliament adjourned without taking action on the proposed legislation. It’s unclear whether the bill will resurface when the parliament reconvenes in February.
Local LGBTI activists are relieved but wary about what may come next. At a public event on Monday, Uganda’s President Museveni sent mixed messages about the bill, saying “If there are some homosexuals, we shall not kill or persecute them but there should be no promotion of homosexuality.”
Gitta Zomorodi is an AJWS program officer for Africa.
As stories about the resurgence of Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill inundate the blogosphere and international media, you could easily get the impression that Ugandans are rallying on the streets demanding the bill’s passage. In fact, the bill is not foremost on the average Ugandan’s mind.
“They are thieves, stealing the money.” The young man shook his head in disgust as he navigated our car through the traffic-choked streets of Uganda’s capital, Kampala. We were listening to an update on the Ugandan government’s latest corruption scandal: the theft of millions of dollars meant to aid the recovery of northern Uganda, a region grappling with deep poverty and neglect six years after the conflict there had ended. Read More
Last week, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was reintroduced to Uganda’s parliament. First drafted in 2009, the proposed legislation quickly gained infamy for its inhumane and draconian provisions. In addition to mandating the death penalty for those found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality,” it threatens jail sentences for those who “promote” homosexuality or fail to report persons suspected to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).
These provisions have sparked international outrage over the persecution of LGBT individuals in Uganda—and rightly so. But the outcry overlooks the impact the bill would have on all Ugandans irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Here’s how: Read More
When I woke up this morning to the amazing news that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been killed (at least for now), I started thinking about what made it possible and what lessons we might extrapolate for the human rights work that AJWS supports all around the world.
We are happy to report good news from Uganda today. The Ugandan parliament ended its session without considering the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Adrian Jjuuko of our partner, the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, explained:
“The Ugandan parliament has closed today. There was no agreed business to discuss today and thus the Speaker adjourned the session. Thus the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has to be reintroduced in the new parliament and the whole process to begin all over again. Thank you all for the efforts and solidarity in fighting this ominous bill. The struggle may have to begin all over again, but for now, the process is over.”
It is unclear what the future holds for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in the next parliament, but this victory today is a testament to the power of advocacy.
We want to thank our Ugandan partners for their tireless efforts, as well as the entire AJWS community and our allies in Congress and the Obama Administration for their work to support human rights activists in Uganda. We especially want to thank Senator Chris Coons for releasing a statement yesterday rejecting the bill and affirming that “equality and human rights are intrinsic values that matter in America, in Uganda, and around the world.”
The fight to stop Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill continues. We thought the bill would be voted on in Parliament today, but it wasn’t. An unrelated issue derailed debates and several members of Parliament walked out. Parliament will reconvene for the last time this Friday, May 13th, at which point the bill could still be voted on and passed.
AJWS has been reaching out to our allies in Congress and in the State Department to ensure continued U.S. engagement at this critical time. The State Department released a statement on Box Turtle Bulletin here explaining its full commitment to stopping this bill from passing. We thank them for their work to support the Ugandan LGBTI community and all Ugandans as they fight an environment of broad human rights abuses in their country. AJWS will continue to be in close contact with our allies in Uganda and in the U.S. to ensure that the U.S. government does not miss an opportunity to condemn the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
As our colleagues at the Civil Society for Human Rights and Constitutional Law have said, “Friday is now the day to watch for. Let the action and statements continue.”
If you haven’t yet called your Senator and Representative asking them to speak out against this draconian bill, you can do so by contacting their offices through the Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121.
It’s no coincidence that the Ugandan parliament has galvanized new energy for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 at a time when Ugandan citizens are protesting high food and fuel prices and the government is cracking down with violence, repression and disregard for the rule of law. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which AJWS’s partners have courageously tried to kill for over a year, is an unconstitutional attack on the LGBTI community and on Uganda’s citizenry at large. It would criminalize the “promotion of homosexuality,” including the provision of health and other essential services to LGBTI people, with three years in prison, and punish “aggravated homosexuality,” which entails homosexual acts by “serial offenders” and those who are HIV positive with the death penalty. Read More