Archive for the 'Africa' Category

Gambia: President Should Reject Homophobic Law

President Yahya Jammeh of GambiaRepost from Human Rights Watch

(Dakar) – President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia should not sign a new Criminal Code amendment that would increase the punishment for “aggravated homosexuality” to life in prison, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today. The measure would further add to the climate of fear for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people in Gambia.

Several provisions of the law violate international human rights law and amount to persecution on the basis of real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Sections of the law are similar to the harsh homophobic legislation that was annulled in August 2014 in Uganda.

“President Jammeh should not approve this profoundly damaging act that violates international human rights law,” said Stephen Cockburn, deputy regional Director for West and Central Africa director at Amnesty International. “Gambia’s National Assembly and the President should not endorse state-sponsored homophobia.” Continue Reading

International Law and the Uncertainty of Rights for LGBT People

Human Rights WatchRepost from Human Rights Watch
Written by Graeme Reid

For lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)people the law is a paradox. The law can operate as an instrument of repression and control, but also as a tool for resistance and liberation. We find fragments of our collective histories in court records. Here we find a sorry history of people in countries across the world convicted of loitering, sodomy, cross-dressing or so-called “crimes against nature.”

For a vulnerable minority, and an unpopular one, domestic and international law has proven to be an indispensable tool, sometimes the only tool, for LGBT people to claim a space in the world. Two decades ago in a 1994 case, the UN Human Rights Committee in Toonen v. Australia asserted the right to privacy for same-sex consenting adults under international law. In 1998, South African courts repealed the Immorality Act and five years later, in 2003, Lawrence v. Texas saw the remaining sodomy laws in the US declared unconstitutional.

Yet some 76 countries around the world maintain discriminatory LGBT laws. Britain exported its sodomy laws to the empire, where many remain in force. These laws not only hold the threat of arrest and prosecution, but have other profound implications for LGBT people as well. Even in the many countries where sodomy laws are seldom enforced, such as India and Uganda, they still symbolize national discrimination against LGBT people.

Human Rights Watch has reported these laws are routinely used for blackmail and extortion, in settings as diverse as KyrgyzstanJamaica and Uganda. Such laws contribute to a climate of prejudice and hostility in which violence occurs with impunity. The passage of the anti-propaganda laws in Russia led to a peak in violence against LGBT people. In Nigeria, the immediate effect following the enactment of draconian legislation was mob violence against gay men. The law in these places means that LGBT people must live a shadow existence under the threat of violence. Continue Reading

Uganda’s Constitutional Court Strikes Down Anti-Homosexuality Law

Royal Mile Kampala UgandaAugust 1, 2014 — The Council for Global Equality welcomes the decision today by Uganda’s Constitutional Court to strike down that country’s odious “Anti-Homosexuality” Law. The Court determined that the passage of the law was not in keeping with correct democratic procedures and struck it down on technical grounds involving the lack of a quorum to pass the bill. The civil society leaders who led the challenge to the law, and stood firmly in support of human rights for all Ugandans, won a remarkable victory for human rights and democracy today. We applaud them, along with those in the international community who have steadfastly opposed this anti-democratic and discriminatory law.

The Council urges that Ugandan officials not reintroduce the bill and instead move forward toward equality for all Ugandans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.  We also hope that President Museveni of Uganda will use the occasion of his official visit to Washington next week for the first-ever Africa Leaders Summit to demonstrate a stronger appreciation of the principle that all citizens, including Uganda’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender minority, deserve equal respect and treatment under the law.

Related: Council Calls for President Obama to Raise LGBT Issues at Africa Summit

Council Calls for President Obama to Raise LGBT Issues at Africa Summit

White HouseIn August, President Obama will host the first-ever U.S.- Africa Summit.  The theme, “Investing in the Next Generation,” raises the hope that the next generation of LGBT Africans will have an equal opportunity to participate, as equal citizens, in the future of the continent.

To promote an LGBT perspective, the Council wrote to President Obama to ask that the official program include LGBT individuals, organizations and experiences to enrich both the Summit and the generational advance to which it aspires.  The letter also highlights opportunities to make the business case for inclusion during business and trade forums at the Summit.

See a copy of the letter here.

Obama’s Evangelical Gravy Train

HIV Billboard

Photo: Andy Kopsa

Repost from The Nation by Andy Kopsa

Despite the president’s promise to cut funding to discredited HIV and pregnancy prevention programs, taxpayer dollars are still bankrolling anti-gay, anti-choice conservative religious groups.

On March 24, just a month after Ugandan President Museveni signed a bill making homosexuality a crime punishable by life in prison, Obama administration officials announced that they were increasing military aid to Uganda in its effort to quell rebel forces. Human rights groups criticized the move, arguing that the aid offered Museveni “legitimacy” after he supported a law that has been widely condemned for violating human rights. The same day, a State Department spokesperson quietly announced that the administration would also “demonstrate our support for the LGBT community in Uganda” by shifting $6.4 million in funding away from the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, whose actions, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said, “don’t reflect our values.” That may be the understatement of the year.

According to Ugandan AIDS activists, administration officials had been told a year and a half earlier that the Inter-Religious Council and other State Department grantees were actively promoting the antigay bill. In September 2012, several LGBT and AIDS advocates in Uganda were invited to a call with representatives from USAID, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Office of the US Global AIDS Coordinator and other US officials to discuss HIV service delivery to vulnerable communities. According to minutes taken by one of the participants and conversations with others on the call, the US officials were warned that several grantees and subcontractors through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, commonly referred to as PEPFAR, were visibly supporting the bill, undermining service delivery to men who have sex with men, or otherwise fomenting anti-gay activities. US officials asked the Ugandan activists to provide information on these actions by the US government’s so-called “implementing partners,” and told them that such evidence might lead to an investigation by US officials. Continue Reading

 

The Council for Global Equality Welcomes the White House Efforts to Protect Human Rights in Uganda

The_White_House,_WashingtonThe Council for Global Equality welcomes today’s White House announcement of new, concrete steps in our country’s bilateral relationship with Uganda in response to President Museveni’s decision to sign into law the Anti-Homosexuality Act earlier this year.  These steps reaffirm the importance the U.S. attaches to a foreign policy that prioritizes respect for the human rights of all people, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender – an important legacy of this Administration.

We take note in particular the announcement of new visa restrictions aimed at restricting entry to those deemed responsible for human rights abuses, including those enabled by this heinous law, and other corrupt practices.  In taking this action, the Administration has placed responsibility where it should lie – with those individuals who have enacted the new law, not the broader Ugandan people.  We urge that a speedy review of visa eligibility be the template for prospective U.S. responses whenever human rights are abridged, or corrupt practices undertaken, in any country.

The Administration’s new steps place appropriate emphasis on anti-LGBT police actions, our bilateral security relationship, and the broad areas in which the U.S. engages with Uganda on sound health policy.  We urge a continued dialogue in each of these areas aimed at ensuring the effective use of U.S. taxpayer funding in each of these areas, and particularly to ensuring that the health needs of men who have sex with men continue to be met.  We further urge that the Administration ensure that no organization charged with providing PEPFAR-funded services is allowed to take steps that deliberately undercut the effectiveness of those services, as was the case with actions taken by the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda in supporting enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Finally, we note that Uganda is not the only government that has taken, in recent months, steps to further criminalize homosexual relations and relationships.  We have been proud to applaud the Administration’s policy of standing for LGBT human and civil rights abroad.  However, a global policy requires a globally consistent response, which to date has not been the case.  We ask that the Administration review, in equal measure, how to respond to similar anti-democratic actions in Nigeria, Russia, and other countries where government officials have put LGBT people at increased risk of abuse.

For more information on the steps the White House is taking click here.

Statement by NSC Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden on the Response to Uganda’s Enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act

Further U.S. Efforts to Protect Human Rights in Uganda

Statement from The White House
Written by Grant Harris and Stephen Pomper

Our hopes for a more peaceful and just world depend on respect for the rights and dignity of all people. It is for this reason that our foreign policy champions human rights and opposes violence and discrimination that targets people because of who they are and whom they love. President Obama’s groundbreaking Presidential Memorandum of December 6, 2011 reflected this commitment by directing the federal government to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT people abroad.

We have seen extraordinary advances for LGBT rights in the United States and in many countries around the world. But some governments have challenged this progress, with results that not only endanger local LGBT communities, but also pose a setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice, and equal rights.

The Government of Uganda’s enactment of the “Anti-Homosexuality Act” is precisely such a step in the wrong direction. As President Obama made clear in February, the enactment of the AHA is more than an affront to the LGBT community in Uganda — it calls into question the Government of Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of all its people, and complicates our bilateral relationship.

After thorough consideration, the U.S. government is taking a number of actions to underscore the critical importance we place on human rights and fighting against discrimination, protecting vulnerable populations, respecting freedom of expression and association, and advancing inclusive governance. In particular:

  • Restricting entry to the United States. We want human rights abusers, worldwide, to know their misdeeds are not unnoticed and would-be human rights abusers to understand that there are consequences for engaging in such actions. The State Department is therefore taking steps consistent with its current authorities (including Presidential Proclamation 8697) to restrict the entry into the United States of specific Ugandan individuals involved in serious violations or abuses of human rights, including those determined to have committed such violations or abuses against LGBT individuals. While we will not identify the individuals whom we have watch-listed in line with confidentiality requirements, this step makes clear our commitment to sanctioning individuals determined to have perpetrated human rights abuses or who are responsible for such acts in the future. In addition, the United States will also take steps consistent with current authorities to restrict entry into the United States by Ugandans who are found responsible for significant public corruption.
  • Ceasing support for Uganda’s community policing program. We are very concerned about the extent to which the Ugandan police may be involved in abusive activities undertaken in the name of implementing the AHA. These concerns relate to the April 3 raid on a U.S.-funded public health program at Makerere University, as well as credible reports of individuals detained and abused while in police custody. Therefore, even as we continue to press the police at every level to fulfill their responsibility to protect all Ugandans, we will also be discontinuing a $2.4 million program in support for the Uganda Police Force community-policing program.
  • Redirecting certain financial support for the Ministry of Health (MOH) to other partners. We remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting the health needs of the Ugandan people, but we seek to invest in partners and programs that share our commitment to equal access and our evidence-based approach to medicine and science. We are accordingly shifting a portion of our financial support for MOH salaries, travel expenses, and other items to health-related activities being undertaken by non-governmental partners in Uganda. These modifications will focus on MOH central headquarters staff in order to avoid negatively affecting health care workers and direct service providers in Uganda.
  • Relocating funds for a planned public health institute and other measures relating to health programming. For similar reasons, we are relocating to another African country the planned establishment of a National Public Health Institute, for which we would have provided approximately $3 million in funding. We have also relocated a National Institutes of Health genomics meeting from Uganda to South Africa.
  • Cancelling a military aviation exercise. We have also cancelled plans to conduct the Department of Defense’s Africa Partnership Flight exercise in Uganda. This was intended to be a United States African Command (AFRICOM)-sponsored aviation exercise with other East African partners.

These steps are in addition to the measures that we announced in March. Among other things, we took steps at that time to redirect funding away from program implementers whose actions called into question their willingness to serve all people in need, to shift certain military and intelligence engagements to other locations, and to suspend certain near-term invitational travel for Ugandan military and police officials.

In taking the measures that we have described, the U.S. government is mindful of the wide range of issues encompassed by our relationship with Uganda — including our development and humanitarian support for the Ugandan people, our efforts to counter the murderous Lord’s Resistance Army, and a partnership that advances our security interests in the region. We will seek to advance these interests while also working with both governmental and non-governmental partners to end discrimination against LGBT people in Uganda and around the world — a struggle central to the United States’ commitment to promoting human rights.

Grant Harris currently serves as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs on the National Security Council. Stephen Pomper is the Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights on the National Security Council.

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