Posts Tagged 'Africa'

President Kim’s Clarion Call

Repost from Huffington Post by Maria Burnett (Human Rights Watch)

In February, the World Bank delayed a $90 million loan for health care in Uganda out of concern over its new Anti-Homosexuality Act. Since then, the Constitutional Courtnullified the law for lack of a parliamentary quorum during the vote. But the government quickly filed a notice of appeal. Members of parliament are also pressing to bring the law back to the floor, swearing they can gather the constitutionally-required numbers.

Just as troubling, another law came into force in July that criminalizes even unintentional HIV transmission and requires HIV testing of pregnant women without their consent, and forced disclosure.

In a personal and thought-provoking Washington Post op-ed earlier this year, World Bank President Jim Kim said that discrimination is bad for economies, societies and individuals. It can prevent people from fully participating in the work force and discourage multinational companies from investing or locating activities in countries with discriminatory laws, he said.

Implicit in the message was that discrimination is bad for governments receiving development assistance too. It would appear that President Yoweri Museveni is alsostarting to understand the economic cost of anti-equality policies, but his rhetoric has been inconsistent. The World Bank/International Monetary Fund annual meetings in Washington this week give President Kim a critical opportunity to stand up for these concerns and push Uganda’s government to take meaningful steps to address discrimination in health services.

The frequently reported discrimination in Ugandan health centers against sex workers and gay men discourages people from seeking care. Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, the former health minister, in August admitted to two groups that discrimination exists and that the government is not equipped to monitor or respond to it.

Last week, in a letter to President Kim, 16 Ugandan and international organizations laid out enforceable steps the bank should take to see that discrimination in care for marginalized groups ends before releasing the loan. Steps include requiring the government to prohibit discrimination in healthcare delivery on grounds of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and all other grounds articulated under international law, and requiring government health care workers to respect patient confidentiality, privacy and informed consent to all treatment.

The World Bank should also fund activities to promote patients’ rights, including providing patient advocates and legal counsel for people who face discrimination, breach of confidentiality or other abuses in health settings and training for Ugandan health workers to respect these rights. The groups also pressed the bank to urge the government to guarantee that it wouldn’t interfere with independent monitoring of health services.

It is crucial for the World Bank to urge the Ugandan government, publicly and privately, to repeal all discriminatory laws and end discriminatory practices. The bank should emphasize the importance of non-discrimination for health and economic development.

After 28 years in power, President Museveni is gearing up to run again in 2016. Aid has continued to flow despite large-scale corruption scandals, but this time should be different. The bank’s decision on the loan will affect the bank’s credibility in Uganda and beyond.

President Kim’s statement about the deleterious economic impact of discrimination was a precedent-setting decision to stand up for human rights. Pushing for real safeguards could significantly contribute to mitigating discrimination against LGBTI patients, women and other marginalized populations who are at disproportionately high risk of negative health outcomes and poverty.

Releasing the loan without meaningful safeguards, while Uganda’s parliamentarians continue to pass discriminatory laws and urge more discriminatory measures, would show a profound disregard for President Kim’s clarion call.

Joint CSO Letter to World Bank on Discrimination in Uganda’s Health Sector

Dr. Jim Yong Kim
President
The World Bank
1818 H St. NW
Washington DC 20433

Dear Dr. Kim:

We write to follow up on our letters of April 1 and May 6, 2014, regarding concerns about discrimination in Uganda’s health sector and the World Bank’s delay of its US$90 million loan.

We, once again, welcome your commitment to ensure that there is no discrimination in World Bank financed projects in Uganda and public recognition that discrimination is not only wrong, but undermines economic growth.

Six months after your decision to delay the health sector loan, we remain concerned that there are still not sufficient safeguards in place to prevent discrimination in health service provision for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) patients, or for women, among other groups in Uganda. In this letter, we share recommendations for the World Bank’s next steps in Uganda and request a meeting with your office as you chart a strategic way forward to ensure that World Bank funding does not entrench discrimination via its loans and other financial instruments. On August 26 during a meeting with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), Uganda’s former minister of health and new prime minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, made comments that reinforce this concern: he agreed that there is discrimination in the health sector, and that the government is not equipped to monitor the health sector for discrimination or to respond to discrimination when it occurs.

The Anti-Homosexuality Act
As you know, on August 1 Uganda’s Constitutional Court ruled that the Anti-Homosexuality Act was void due to a lack of quorum in parliament during the vote. While we welcome this important ruling, it did not address the substantive rights at jeopardy in the law.

Moreover the Ugandan government has unambiguously indicated that it remains committed to the discriminatory approach and practices that were reflected in the law. For example, the attorney general immediately filed an appeal to the Supreme Court; and while President Museveni has asked for the appeal to be put on hold temporarily, it is only so a ruling party parliamentary committee can determine if and how the law should be returned to parliament anew. Also, since the ruling, several government officials, including President Museveni, have spoken out in favor of the criminalization of the “promotion of homosexuality” which jeopardizes public health work.

The situation in Uganda remains volatile, especially as campaigning for the 2016 elections gets underway. There is a very real possibility all or significant portions of the discriminatory Anti-Homosexuality Act could be passed in parliament again in the next 12 to 18 months. Effectively, the Ugandan government’s pursuit of discriminatory policies against LGBTI people, including in the healthcare sector, is unchanged by the Constitutional Court ruling.

In what appears to be an effort to encourage donors, including the World Bank, to maintain funding to Uganda’s healthcare sector despite the discriminatory environment, the Ministry of Health produced a ministerial directive this year establishing guidelines for health workers who treat LGBTI people. While a written commitment to non-discrimination in the healthcare sector should not be dismissed, this directive is very problematic. It describes the provision of health services to LGBTI people as an “ethical dilemma” for healthcare workers – rather than a professional obligation or equal access to health care as a fundamental human right. The directive creates a de-facto “separate but unequal” system for LGBTI people seeking healthcare. It also remains wholly unenforceable in law. It provides no substantive protection to LGBTI people, or to healthcare workers providing services to LGBTI people, nor does it require any substantive action by the government in terms of upholding non-discrimination in the health sector. It should not be seen as meaningful action on the part of the government to address the World Bank’s publicly stated concerns which led to the loan’s delay.

The HIV Prevention and Control Act
Just as worrying, on July 31, President Museveni signed into law the HIV Prevention and Control Act, which not only criminalizes transmission and attempted transmission of HIV but allows for mandatory testing of pregnant women, their partners, and victims of sexual violence; allows certain people including health workers to reveal the HIV status of their patients without their patients’ consent; and enables courts to order the release of individuals’ HIV status without their consent.

Women tested against their will, or whose HIV status may be revealed against their will, may be exposed to potential physical violence from partners who fear or blame them for infection. Not only are the law’s provisions contrary to well-established international best practices of confidentiality, consent and counseling – a bedrock in the fight against HIV – but the well-documented impact of such punitive measures is to drive people away from services and fuel fear and further discrimination.

Given Uganda’s ongoing discriminatory environment in the allocation of health services, we believe it remains very important for the World Bank to ensure strong safeguards are in place before the delayed loan is released. Such action could significantly contribute to mitigating against existing discrimination experienced by LGBTI patients, women, and other marginalized and excluded populations who are at disproportionately high risk of negative health outcomes and poverty.

We recommend that the World Bank:

1. Publicly share the outcome of the World Bank’s independent assessment of the impact of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act on the proposed $90 million loan.

2. Only fund the health sector through the proposed $90 million loan if it includes

(a) Components funding:

  • Routine pre-service and in-service training of the Ugandan health workforce in non-discrimination in service delivery, building on existing training efforts led by civil society;
  • Robust monitoring, and supervision measures to enforce expectations regarding non-discrimination, beyond current supervisory structures. This would include, in addition to other mechanisms, independent third party monitoring to identify instances of discrimination;
  • Activities to promote all patients’ rights to non-discrimination, confidentiality, privacy, and consent to or to refuse treatment, and to be informed about risk of medical procedures during health service delivery – for example through public messages, health promotion activities, signs in clinics and public places, and other strategic communications efforts (in English and local languages); and
  • Measures to determine consumer satisfaction with health service quality.

(b) Loan covenants:

  • Prohibiting all forms of discrimination, including on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity, and all other grounds articulated under international law;
  • Requiring the government to respect patient confidentiality, privacy, and informed consent to all treatment, which requires being fully informed of the risks involved with medical procedures and medication;
  • Requiring that there not be any interference with any civil society or other third party monitoring of health institutions;

3. Through the Global Partnership for Social Accountability and other World Bank civil society funding mechanisms, provide financial support for patient advocates and legal counsel for individuals who face discrimination, breach of confidentiality, or other abuses in health settings;

4. Review Uganda’s new HIV law, in close collaboration with Ugandan civil society and independent experts, and describe mitigating measures the World Bank will take to ensure Uganda’s health systems is strengthened and HIV objectives are achieved given the discriminatory environment, and publish both the review and mitigating measures;

5. Publicly and privately at all levels urge the government to repeal all discriminatory laws and end discriminatory practices, emphasizing the importance of non-discrimination for health and development and emphasize that the government’s lack of progress in this area will increasingly call into question aspects of the government’s relationship with the World Bank.

We firmly believe that the World Bank’s decision regarding the $90 million loan will have a profound impact on the credibility of the World Bank in Uganda and beyond.  Countries seeking to benefit from World Bank funding should clearly understand that the delay of the loan was not a superficial decision, but rather a serious statement about the deleterious economic impact of discrimination and a precedent-setting decision to stand up for human rights. But that is not possible if the delay is concluded without any substantive progress by government regarding nondiscrimination in the health sector.

We would appreciate the opportunity to discuss the way forward in Uganda with you given the critical World Bank engagement there and the impact of the situation in Uganda on other countries who may benefit from World Bank financial instruments in the future.

Thank you for your consideration of these important issues. We look forward to meeting with you or your staff to take this conversation forward.

Sincerely,

Aaron Dorfman, Vice President for National Programs, American Jewish World Service (AJWS)
Kevin Robert Frost, Chief Executive Officer, AmFAR
Chad Dobson, Executive Director, Bank Information Center (BIC)
Moses Mulumba, Executive Director, Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD)
Jeff Ogwaro, Coordinator, Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CSCHRCL)
Mark Bromley, Council Chair, The Council for Global Equality
Asia Russell, Director of International Policy, Health GAP
David Stacy,Director for Government Affairs, Human Rights Campaign
Jessica Evans, Senior Advocate/Researcher for International Financial Institutions, Human Rights Watch
Brant Luswata, Resource Center Manager, Icebreakers Uganda
Wade McMullen, Staff Attorney,Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights
Frank Mugisha, Executive Director, Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG)
Moses Kimbugwe, Programs Director, Spectrum Uganda
Najib Kabuye, Director, Uganda Harmonized Rights Alliance
Kikonyogo Kivumbi, Executive Director, Uganda Health and Science Press Association (UHSPA)
Beyonce Karungi, Director, TransEquality Uganda

Cc:
World Bank Board of Executive Directors
Hon. Ruhakana Rugunda, Prime Minister, Uganda
Mr. Makhtar Diop, Vice President for Africa, World Bank
Mr. Tim Evans, Health Sector Director, World Bank
Mr. Olusoji O. Adeyi, Sector Manager, Health, Nutrition and Population, Africa, World Bank
Mr. Philippe Dongier, Country Director, Uganda, World Bank
Mr. Moustapha Ndaiye, Country Manager, Uganda, World Bank
Mr. Peter Okwero, Health Specialist, World Bank, Uganda
Mr. Mark Dybul, Executive Director, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
Dr. Deborah Birx, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator

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

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


Stay Informed

Subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 172 other followers

Categories


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 172 other followers