CALS condemns Uganda's "Anti-Homosexuality" legislation
- Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane
We stand with LGBTIAQ+ people in Uganda and raise strong concerns about the criminalisation of already marginalised people
The Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) expresses grave concerns about the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 which further criminalises LGBTIAQ+ persons in Uganda. The Act criminalises same sex-relations with even broader and more draconian punishments for LGBTIAQ+ conduct, including life imprisonment or death.
The Anti-Homosexuality Act infringes on the human rights of all Ugandans, while gravely undermining the human rights of LGBTIAQ+ persons. More broadly, it contributes to a climate of fear and persecution which will also negatively impact on trade, public health, investment, tourism, and development. It also risks undoing the important progress that Uganda has made on global challenges, such as the fight against HIV/AIDS and will see the decline of sexual and reproductive health care.
The Act further criminalises children and imposes imprisonment as a sanction. It further may limit media freedom in Uganda with its overbroad section on promotion of homosexuality. It imposes a great risk to people’s employability once they have been convicted of offences under the Act.
The Act unduly imposes a duty on people to report acts of homosexuality, failure to do so comes with an imprisonment period of 5 years.
The Act represents the government's egregious, discriminatory approach towards a very vulnerable group in their community and is counter to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Uganda is a signatory. The Act must be seen unconstitutional as it contravenes Uganda’s constitutional protections of the rights to equality and freedom from discrimination and is therefore state-sanctioned homophobia.
The Act is also in direct conflict with Resolution 275 passed by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, meeting at its 55th Ordinary Session. The Resolution calls for the protection from violence and other human rights violations against persons based on their real or imputed sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Resolution specifically urges states to end all acts of violence and abuse, whether committed by state or non-state actors, including by enacting and effectively applying appropriate laws prohibiting and punishing all forms of violence including those targeting persons based on their imputed or real sexual orientation or gender identities, ensuring proper investigation and diligent prosecution of perpetrators, and establishing judicial procedures responsive to the needs of victims.
The legislation also violates the Yogykarta principles and State Obligations on the Application of International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics.
We call on the South African government to publicly condemn the actions of the Ugandan government as South Africa explicitly acknowledges sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sexual characteristics as protected categories under section 9 of our Constitution.
We also call on the South African government to assist members of the LGBTIAQ+ community who may seek asylum because of this heinous law. This is in line with our legislative framework pertaining to asylum-seeking.
“State-sanctioned violence and the criminalisation of marginalised people does not stop with the law,” says Dr Sheena Swemmer, head of Gender Justice at CALS. “Instead, this helps discrimination and hatred spread unchecked into communities, where violence and harm against these individuals can occur with impunity.”
“The enactment of this Act is retrogressive and will curtail efforts that have been made by Uganda regarding HIV/AIDS,” says Basetsana Koitsioe, Gender Justice attorney. “The Uganda AIDS Commission has also recommended decriminalisation of consensual same-sex relations as a way of addressing stigma and increasing uptake of HIV-related services.”
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