‘Anti-gay’ bill becomes law in Uganda (updated)

Uganda-museveni

It was dreadful to wake up this morning to the news that the President of Uganda had signed the ‘anti-gay’ bill into law.  Though this action has looked likely for weeks, there has been some hope that Museveni would challenge the popular will in his country.  Instead, he re-iterated his ridiculous viewpoints, including:

Homosexuals are actually mercenaries. They are heterosexual people but because of money they say they are homosexuals. These are prostitutes because of money,” he said, asserting that he had taken the time to get scientific advice before signing off on the law.

My mind and heart immediately turned to the many activists that the UUA has partnered with in Uganda during the struggle against this bill, including UU minister Rev. Mark Kiyimba.  The UUA has reached out to Rev. Mark and other partners, and we will support the paths that are chosen in this new legislative reality.  Safety and security for LGBT people, which has always been a serious matter, now becomes dire.  And, prioritizing a judicial challenge is likely to gain strength.  We will be in solidarity with LGBT activists in Uganda, and in many places around the world, in this regional and global struggle.

The UU United Nations Office (UU-UNO) takes the lead role for the UUA in supporting LGBT partners. If you are in the NYC area, the UU-UNO will be hosting a panel discussion this Thursday, February 27th, entitled “Basic Freedoms in a Homophobic World,” which will address the current homophobic laws in Nigeria, Uganda, India and Russia.

You can support the UN Office’s work in Uganda and around the world by making a contribution.  And, as news from our Ugandan partners becomes available, we’ll update this blog.

 

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Update: From the Unitarian Church of Uganda - 

The Unitarian Church of Uganda has just leant with regrets the signing of the Anti-Gay Bill into law by the President of Uganda – Yoweri Kaguta Museveni

The “Anti-Homosexuality Legislation,” is a law now in Uganda after President Museveni signed it into law. This controversial law has been the subject of international attention and concern over the impact on the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons in Uganda.

Our immediate response is: “The Ugandan government must immediately move to repeal the so-called ‘Anti-Homosexuality’ law which attaches severe criminal penalties to freedom of association and speech related to LGBT rights,”

“This law is so vague that it is could even lead to prison time for health workers ,Pastors ,Lawyers , teachers who provide care to someone thought to be gay , This Law also will see Ordinary Ugandans who believe in equality, humanity, and rights, could ending up in jail.”

As it’s the duty and obligation of Ugandan government  to protect everyone within its jurisdiction from violence, we need to see concrete plans to stop vigilante violence in the wake of this legislation and to investigate, impartially, all allegations of abuse so long as the law is in effect. The government must publicly declare that it will not tolerate violence against LGBT populations.

 

 

Uganda Passes the Anti Homosexuality Bill

On Friday, December 20,index 2013, the Ugandan Parliament passed the long-dreaded kill-the-gays bill otherwise known as the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. 

The bill, as passed, does not call for the death penalty; instead, it mandates life imprisonment for “aggravated homosexuality.” However, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has not yet signed the bill and much remains unclear about what has transpired today, and more importantly, what will happen in the days to come.

Followers of this story, which began in 2009, will remember that the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament had promised to pass the bill as a Christmas present last year; though delayed, it seems the Speaker made good on his promise, to the dismay of LGBTQ activists all around the world.

There remains much that we don’t know.  We have yet to get a copy of the bill to know exactly what it says.  There have also been questions as to whether the Ugandan Parliament actually had a quorum today, which is necessary to pass any legislation. 

President Museveni has long been against the passage of this bill, knowing the international consequences and stating that Uganda already has sufficient anti-homosexuality legislation to fully criminalize homosexuality in Uganda.  However, on his visit to Nigeria two weeks ago, Museveni’s tune began to change; he called on Nigeria to support his stand against Western governments, imploring the nation to follow his lead to “preserve African culture.” During this same visit, Museveni was quoted as wondering why the west is “not concerned about the development of my country, they are only concerned about gays.”  

Nigeria also passed an anti-same sex marriage bill this week. Both the Ugandan and Nigerian bills call for lengthy prison terms (life imprisonment in the former and 15 years in the latter). Groups combating HIV/AIDS are urging both nations not to sign into effect their respective anti-homosexual policies as doing so compromises efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in both countries.

Our partners at Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) have issued the following statement on the passage of the bill:

SMUG has learnt that the Bill as passed by Parliament maintains the prohibition of consensual same sex acts between adults and prescribes a penalty of life imprisonment for so-called repeat offenders. It also requires “persons in authority, including persons exercising religious or social authority to report offences under the Act within twenty four hours or else face imprisonment for three years or a fine.” Furthermore, the Bill maintains the offence of “Promotion of Homosexuality” against anyone who acts as an accomplice or in any way abets homosexuality and “related practices.”

 

“I’m outraged and disappointed that the Uganda parliament has acted in a very ignorant and irrational way” said Frank Mugisha the Executive Director, SMUG. “We shall fight this legislation TO THE END.” he asserts.

Read the full statement here.

A UU-UNO former intern Russell Hathaway, now a student at the University of Chicago, has prepared a detailed history of LGBTI issues in Uganda.  To read this, please click here: LGBT Rights Uganda.

The UU United Nations Office is in touch with all of our partners in Uganda, seeking to better understand what the bill says, how that will manifest, and if it has even legally passed. We’ll be following up with actions UU’s can take to stand in solidarity with the Ugandan LGBTQ community once our partners advise us on how best to support them at this difficult time.

In the meantime, your support in our ongoing efforts to combat global homophobia is needed now more than ever: Please donate to the UU-UNO today.

No Longer in My Name: A Faith-Based Response to Faith-Based Intolerance

 

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In over 76 countries, religion is used as a rationale to oppress people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Now is the time for people of faith to respond to faith-based intolerance and, on June 12, the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office and other organizations joined together to do just that. Over 100 people gathered in the United Nations Church Center for a screening of the film God Loves Uganda, a new documentary by filmmaker Roger Ross Williams about the importation of Western evangelical values into Uganda.  Following the film, attendees listened to

The Esteemed Interfaith Panel
The Esteemed Interfaith Panel

testimony from a Ugandan refugee and engaged in a discussion about the film with five interfaith clergy members. The evening concluded with a message from Ugandan UU Minister Mark Kiyimba, urging everyone to support Ugandan faith leaders in their work for LGBTI equality. Click here to watch the video. The evening was greatly informative for all, and left everyone inspired to support Ugandan work for equality and to strive for change in their own countries.

God Loves UgandaThe documentary God Loves Uganda premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2013, and has won numerous awards at film festivals. It tells the story of the International House of Prayer (IHOP), an evangelical Christian organization that sends missionaries around the world to spread the word of God. IHOP’s leaders have focused many of

their missionary efforts on Uganda, a place they believe is ripe with the possibility for spiritual renewal—in part because half of the population is under 15. IHOP sends young Americans to communities throughout Uganda, to build churches and minister to people and even provide social services, but the IHOP missionaries rsz_img_4073also spread their evangelical values, including homophobia.  Widespread persecution of LGBTI people has forced many to flee the country and led to the murder of others, including gay activist David Kato, and has culminated in an American-influenced Anti-Homosexuality bill being introduced into the Ugandan parliament. The bill, often referred to as the “Kill the Gays” bill, would make homosexual behavior punishable by life imprisonment or even death. God Loves Uganda seeks to raise
awareness of what is happening not just in Uganda, but around the world, and is a powerful call for international support for LGBTI rights.

rsz_img_4098 The evening opened with an introduction by Bruce Knotts, Director of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office, who spoke about the importance of the film and of faith support for LGBTI rights. After the screening of God Loves Uganda, a refugee from Uganda gave a powerful testimony affirming the accuracy of the film and spoke about his experiences and the importance of international advocacy. A panel of clergy members—Rev. Eric Cherry from the Unitarian Universalist Association, Imam Daaiyee Abdullah from Muslims for Progressive Values, Pastor Joseph Tolton from Rehoboth Church, Rabbi Deborah Hirsch from Congregation Shaaray Tefila, and Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer from United Church of Christ—then answered questions posed by Mordechai Levovitz, event organizer and Co-Director of Jewish Orthodox Queer Youth, about the film and faith-based advocacy. Although the clergy members came from different religious traditions, their values and beliefs in equality were remarkably similar, and they all expressed the importance of supporting and getting involved in work for LGBTI equality.

rsz_img_4092After the event, many attendees expressed how much they appreciated the speakers’ testimonies, and how powerful they found the film. The evening truly brought together a community of faith and faith allies to support equality and interfaith activism, and showed that, if we join together, we can change the world. No Longer in My Name was cosponsored by the United Nations NGO Committee for Human Rights, the Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, Muslims for Progressive Values, American Jewish World Service, Union of Reform Judaism, Jewish Orthodox Queer Youth, GLAAD, Bronx LGBTQ Center, and Love Beyond Borders.

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Dire Situation for Gays in Uganda

Last week in Uganda the piece of legislation known to the world as the “Kill the Gays Bill” passed in Ugandan parliamentary committee. The bill can be voted into law any day and the Ugandan House Speaker has promised to pass the bill as a “Christmas gift” to the Ugandan people. Since 2008 when Uganda was inundated by high profile western Christian fundamentalists who preached against homosexuality in large conferences, a growing homophobic sentiment has taken hold in Uganda. Harsher punishments for homosexuals have overwhelming majority support in both Ugandan public opinion and government. This bill would represent a barbaric regression for Uganda’s human rights record. Besides directly punishing homosexuals,  sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) advocates and LGBT allies, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance warns that the bill would have a disastrous impact on the country’s HIV response.

The Bill
The bill proposes harsher punishments for homosexual acts, advocacy and even allies. The original bill calls for the death penalty or life prison sentence for “aggravated homosexuality” –defined as when one of the participants is HIV-Positive, or considered a “serial offender”. The bill also prohibits any public support for LGBT rights. Concepts like pride, anti-gay bullying, gay safe sex initiatives or LGBT outreach would all be illegal. The bill also criminalizes those who do not report homosexuals. Parents, teachers and even priests would be punished if they don’t report someone who tells them that they are gay. Landlords who rent to gay people would face up to three years in prison. Finally, and most insidiously, the bill exonerates those who kill gay people if they feel threatened; promoting the kind of mob killings and lynchings that lead to the death of Ugandan Gay Activist David Kato last year. (more…)

Rev. Mark Kiyimba – Ugandan UU – receives NEA Award

On July 1, 20012 Reverend Mark Kiyimba – the leader of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Uganda – was presented the National Education Association’s “Virginia Uribe Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights.”

Congratulations, Rev. Mark.  May God bless your ongoing work.

UU Led UN LGBT Consultation Agrees To Next Steps

In the Spring of 2009, Human Rights Watch called the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office and said that fundamentalist ministers and politicians were inflaming homophobic hatred in Uganda.  Human Rights Watch asked the UU-UNO to form a coalition of progressive faith leaders to counter this dangerous provocation to violent hatred in Uganda.  The UU-UNO accepted the challenge and got to work.  In June 2010, the UU-UNO held its first consultation at the UN Church Center.  A follow up meeting was held at the UN Church Center in December 2010.  At that meeting, the UN LGBT Coalition set itself to support the Obama Administration’s efforts to reinsert “sexual orientation’ into a UN resolution against global extra judicial killing.  The coalition mounted a massive effort filling the Facebook page of the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, e-mails to the Secretary of State and President by the thousands from over a dozen faith traditions.  In the end 23 countries changed their votes to reinclude “sexual orientation” into the UN resolution.  The December 2010 meeting agreed that it’s next meeting would be at Union Theological Seminary.

On October 11-12, 2011, 91 faith, secular, academic and media leaders met to put some teeth into efforts to end global homophobia and especially to end punitive laws which deprive gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people of employment, education, housing, dignity and of life itself.  Carefully selected speakers and participants included stellar names in journalism like Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family; from government, like Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Daniel Baer; from academia, like the Harvard Carr Center’s Dr. Tim McCarthy and many faith leaders like SoulForce Executive Director Rev. Dr. Cindi Love.  Unitarian Universalists were in leadership roles and participating in every aspect of the conference.  Rev. Eric Cherry, Director of the UUA International Resouces Division, Rev. Carlton Smith, from the Arlington, VA UU Congregation, Rev. Mark Kiyimba from the Unitarian Kampala, Uganda congregations, Bruce Knotts, UU-UNO Director and five UU-UNO interns halped make the conference a grand success.

In addition UU Minister, Rev. Mark Kiyimba, there were other clergy and activists from Uganda, Malawi, Zambia and from several American states from California to New York, from Massachusetts to Texas.  This broad coalition heard reports on the situation in Uganda and the role of the religious dominionists in the United States.  We discussed HIV/AIDS and the lack of access to medical care for both the LGBT community and for those who are HIV+ in many countries.  There was an outstanding report on media and the need for an Associated Gay Press to get LGBT stories into the mainstream media.  The coaltion agreed to formally build an organization of all its members to further its goals.  It agreed to continue meeting.  The coalition agreed to work on three major projects: 1. Convene a theological conference in Kampala, Uganda to highlight to Ugandans and Africans that there is a vibrant and progressive theology that promotes the inherent worth and dignity of every person.  2. The coalition agreed to host a major converence on HIV/AIDS and related health issues in Malawi and 3. to convene a meeting to formulate media strategies at Harvard University.  Conferees were confident that foundation and other funding could be obtained to finance these important projects.

The one thing that the UU-UNO has demonstrated at the UN is its unique ability to build effective coalitions.  Despite its small size and modest funding, the UU-UNO continues to lead in building coaltions to promote human rights and to find a global response for climate change.  The UN LGBT Coalition is one of its finest acheivements, and that work has only just begun.  With your help, it can continue to thrive, grow and promote UU values at the UN and around the world.

The UU-UNO aims to make similar impact to promote women’s empowerment, mitigate the effects of climate change, and to ensure that no migrant of whatever documentation is treated as a criminal simply for crossing a border to find a better life.  The UU-UNO’s light burns brightly as a beacon for justice and compassion at the world’s most important multilateral forum: The United Nations.

 

Eddoboozi representative goes to IDAHO conference

The UUA has received word that a representative of our LGBT Human Rights organizational partner in Uganda – Eddoboozi – has been invited to attend the IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia) Campaign conference on May 17th in Paris, France.

 

“John will travel to France as an Ambassador of EDDOBOOZI Human Rights defenders Network at the invitation of IDAHO president George Louis to be part of the world International Day Against Homophobia. This is a symbol of the recognition that Uganda is a country full of homophobia as a result of hate speeches.

Objectives of trip:

  • To lobby and continue advocating against the Anti Homosexuality Bill and push for continued Pressure from the European Union member states with the Ugandan Government.
  • To strengthen the Network EDDOBOOZI, IDAHO- Uganda, Spectrum and the rest of the world.
  • To stand and speak in solidarity with all other Organizations that have helped the LGBTI community in Uganda during these difficult trial moments.”

Thank you for Standing on the Side of Love, John.  We are standing with you!

The UU Church in Kampala invites UU congregations to use the following chalice lighting during worship while the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is under consideration:

A Chalice Lighting Prayer for Uganda

Leader: We believe and trust that all people are equal in humanity: Black or White, Rich or Poor, Gay or Straight.

Congregation: All people are equal in humanity.

Leader: Our prayer today is that the government of Uganda will listen to the cry of its people.  May they find wisdom and recognize the equality in humanity of all people, and reject the evil ideas contained in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Congregation: So may it be.  Amen.

Kampala, Uganda: Standing on the Side of Love

Rev. Eric Cherry, Director of the UUA’s International Resources Office,  is currently on the ground in Kampala, Uganda, attending the UU Association of Uganda’s Standing on the Side of Love event, which began yesterday and concludes today. For the second year in a row, LGBT advocates in Uganda have gathered together in solidarity, worship, celebration, and this year in remembrance of David Kato, an LGBT activist who was tragically slain last month. At great personal risk, over 200 attendees from the religious and LGBT communities have come to provide one another support and to continue their protest against the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which is  still under consideration by Uganda’s legislature.

It’s been an honor to accept Rev. Mark Kiyimba’s invitation to come and represent the UUA at the UU Association of Uganda’s “Standing on the Side of Love” event in Kampala.   The full day of activities has just come to an end, and nearly 200 people have departed this tremendous witness event feeling energized, ministered unto, and connected to the network of LGBT Human Rights organizations in Uganda.

Those in attendance were welcomed in prayer by Uganda’s only Theravadan Buddhist Monk: Venerable K. Bhante, who described Buddha’s understanding of Love and explained that the Uganda Buddhist Centre welcomes LGBT Ugandans.  If you’re interested in knowing how Rev. Mark and Ven. Bhante connected with each other, let me know and I’ll tell you the story.

Other speakers included our emcee for the day, John, who’s experience as a gay Ugandan was described with great thoughtfulness in “Missionaries of Hate” –  watch the full program here.

Rev. Kiyimba not only welcomed attendees and led them in song, but described the history of Standing on the Side of Love in Uganda (this is the second annual event) and the work of the new LGBT Human Rights Defenders Network: Edoboozi (The Voice for the Voiceless).  The Ugandan UU Association was instrumental in its formation, and Rev. Mark will be taking me for a visit to their offices and safe house tomorrow – I’ll share my impressions shortly thereafter.

Stella Nyanzi spoke as a representative of SMUG (Sexual Minorities of Uganda) and discussed the issue of Love and Safety.  SMUG was, of course, the organization which LGBT activist David Kato worked tirelessly for before he was murdered in January.  Stella described how the kind of love that David Kato embodies – a Human Rights/Agape kind of love – is inherently risky.  She explained that David Kato knew the risks of love and gave himself to it with his eyes wide open.  She advocated that everyone in attendance embrace David’s example and live lives that are full of Love – but understand how risky it is.

Retired Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo – who has been a tireless supporter of LGBT human rights – gave the featured presentation of the day.  He offered a biblical reflection on the meaning of Love and ended by saying that “today I am Standing on the Side of Love, just as Jesus did” to thunderous applause.  Bishop Senyonjo had visited David Kato’s mother and his two siblings earlier today and told us that they asked him to convey their greetings to the meeting – and that they would be standing on the side of love with us in spirit.

The program also included a celebratory lunch, dances performed by “Young Adults on the Rock,”  and a reception at the end of the day.  I was told over and over again that this is the only LGBT event of this sort in Uganda and how important it is to the community.  Everyone was in awe that the turn-out was so strong given the current climate of violence in Kampala.  And, the leadership is convinced that it will help continue the struggle for LGBT Human Rights.

Photos from SSL:Uganda

Ugandan partners respond to the murder of David Kato

The UU Church of Uganda and Eddoboozi Human Rights Defenders Network have issued the following statement in response to the murder of Ugandan LGBT Human Rights Activist David Kato.   Please support their work by making a contribution to the UUA/UU-UNO LGBT Uganda Fund

UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CHURCH-UGANDA (UUA)

and

EDDOBOOZI HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS NETWORK-EHRDN

PRESS RELEASE


January 27, 2011
UUA-KAMPALA
EHRDN-KAMPALA

CONDEMNING THE MURDER OF DAVID KATO A HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER IN UGANDA

We condemn the murder of David Kato vehemently and call upon all in authority and volunteers to bring the murderer to justice. Human rights defenders are invaluable gate keepers of peaceful co-existence in societies around the world.

They set the pace of responsible lifestyles and commit leaders in communities to the issues of the people they lead.

David Kato has been a law abiding Ugandan, a very passionate professional teacher and a member of a vibrant community in Uganda where he is sorely missed. His death comes at a time when many are pointing fingers at homophobic acts or acts of hatred because of the late’s roles in bringing to the front page issues of marginalised communities and ensuring justice for them.

The Unitarian Church of Uganda, a torch bearer of the love of God and Eddoboozi Human Rights Defenders’ Network join hands in condemning such killing; we strongly condemn such inhuman acts.

UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CHURCH
REVEREND MARK KIYIMBA
KAMPALA, UGANDA
rev.mark@minister.com

EDDOBOOZI HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
THOMAS M. (Administrator)
NETWORK-EHRDN-UGANDA
eddoboozihrdefenders@gmail.com