Sunday, September 7, 2014

Anti-Gay bill Annulled

PRESS STATEMENT For Immediate Release: August 1 2014 A Victory for Constitutionalism (Kampala) In the case of Prof. J Oloka-Onyango & 9 Others v. Attorney General (Petition No.8 of 2014)- the Constitutional Court has struck down Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014 as unconstitutional. The ruling was delivered by a unanimous court of five members by Justices Eldad Mwanguhya and Steven Kavuma on behalf of a unanimous court made of three other justices: Justice Augustine Nshimye, Justice Ruby Opio-Aweri, and Justice Solomy Balungi Bbosa. The case was brought by a cross-section of concerned Ugandan citizens to challenge the constitutionality of the Act on the grounds that it was passed when Parliament did not have the necessary quorum as required by the Constitution and the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure and also that it violated the constitutional guarantees of freedom from discrimination and from cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, among others. Only the ground of quroum was ruled on. The Court found that the Act should be nullified because there was no quorum in parliament on the day that it was passed as required by the Constitution and the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure, and that the Speaker committed an illegality when she allowed it to be passed without ascertaining that the quorum existed as required by the Constitution and the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure. That this was an illegality and the resultant law could not stand. “The judiciary today has stood for the rule of law and good governance in striking out a law that was passed in a way that contravened the Constitution and the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure. This is a resounding victory for democracy in the country, and confirms that laws passed in violation of the Constitution cannot be allowed to remain on the law books” according to Prof. J Oloka-Onyango, the first petitioner. “This victory is for all Ugandans. It is an affirmation of the independence of the Judiciary and of a growing democracy: despite populist politicians claiming support for the law, the Court has stood up for what is right,’ said Adrian Jjuuko, Executive Director of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), the ninth Petitioner. According to sixth petitioner and Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), Frank Mugisha, ‘The striking down of the law removes a big yoke from the necks of many LGBTI persons who were criminalised for simply being who they are’. In the few months since the Anti-Homosexuality Act was passed by Parliament on 20 December 2013, activists recorded a marked increase in cases of violence against people known or suspected to be LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex). Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) documented 162 cases of rights violations targeted against the LGBTI community during the period 1st December 2013 to 1st May 2014. The court ruling also comes as a relief to civil society stakeholders and service providers who within weeks of the passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act in February 2014 were falsely targeted as being engaged in the promotion of homosexuality. The petition was supported by the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, a Coalition of 50 civil society organisations that was established in 2009 to oppose the then Anti Homosexuality Bill. Clare Byarugaba, Co-Coordinator of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law asserted, ‘As the Civil Society Coalition, we are excited about this development, and call upon the State to respect the rights of all Ugandans and to uphold the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.’ For more information, contact: Frank Mugisha +256 772 616 062, frankmugisha@gmail.com Adrian Jjuuko, +256 782 169 505, jjuukoa@gmail.com Geoffrey Ogwaro, +256 782 176 069, ahbcoalition.coordinator@gmail.com Clare Byarugaba, +256 774 608 663, ahbcoalition.coordinator@gmail.com

MPs start process to re-table gay Bill

By SOLOMON ARINAITWE & ISAAC IMAKA Posted Wednesday, September 3 2014 at 01:00 IN SUMMARY Change. MPs had wanted the House to suspend handling of the ongoing Budget process to handle the anti-gays Bill but the request was turned down. nShare Parliament yesterday officially allowed the start of a process which will see the reintroduction of a much stricter law against homosexuality. It was revealed that MPs David Bahati (Ndorwa West) and Benson Obua Ogwal (Moroto County) have written to Parliament asking for a date to be set aside for the re-tabling of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The law was struck down by the Constitutional Court on August 1 after the judges agreed with a group of petitioners that it was enacted without quorum in Parliament. Mr Bahati regains the initiative on a Bill he had first tabled in 2009, much to the chagrin of Western countries, which denounced it as an affront to human rights and reacted by cutting donor aid when it was passed into law in December last year. Yesterday, as the House resumed from a mini-recess, Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah, said the two MPs have been granted leave of Parliament to allow them time to prepare the Bill, triggering excitement among members. According to the House Rules of Procedure, once the Bill is re-tabled, it will be referred to a committee where revisions are considered, brought back to the House for debate before proceeding to the third reading- the final stage before the Bill is passed. Mr Oulanyah also indicated that a drive to register MPs in support of the reintroduction of the Bill had garnered the support of 254 MPs - pushing the number much higher than the required one third of all 376 MPs entitled to vote. Shortly after the court nullification, lawmakers led by Kawempe North MP Latif Ssebagala began collecting signatures in support of a plan to immediately reintroduce the law. They wanted the House to suspend handling of the ongoing Budget process, with a proposal that the new Bill be the first on the Order Paper, a request that was turned down yesterday. “We are now focusing on the Budget process and the Bill was already here and we passed it into law. If it had still been within Parliament, it would still be property of Parliament and we would have done whatever necessary to correct the anomalies,” Mr Oulanyah said. “So when we finish the Budget and as soon as the movers of this Bill are ready, we will proceed. When it is introduced, we will handle it appropriately about those issues that were raised that caused the nullification,” he added. Under Uganda’s Penal Code Act, sexual acts “against the order of nature” are already criminalised. By press time, it was unclear whether the two MPs will work alongside a nine-member committee led by Vice President Edward Ssekandi which was proposed by the NRM Parliamentary Caucus sitting on August 12 to look into the human rights issues raised against the law. President Museveni is reported to have advised MPs to go slow in their quest since the issue was delicate. Mr Bahati and Mr Ogwal were not available for comment yesterday as they were held up by the budget debate. Promise detailed review In the letter that Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah read, MPs David Bahati and Benson Obua also promised to look into the other issues raised by pro-gays activists in their petition but which were not disposed of by court. Judges only addressed themselves to the prayer about lack of quorum. iladu@ug.nationmedia.com

Do not harm homosexuals, Archbishop Odama appeals

By Julius Ocungi Posted Monday, August 18 2014 at 01:00 IN SUMMARY The cleric says gays were created in God’s image but only deviated from a Godly lifestyle. Gulu- The Archbishop of Gulu Archdiocese, John Baptist Odama, has asked Ugandans to avoid harming homosexuals despite the fact that the Constitutional Court nullified the anti-homosexuality law on a technicality of lack of quorum. Bishop Odama said homosexuals are also human beings created in the image of God who only deviated from the Godly way of life. “Let us learn to love God’s human creatures. It is not that I am advocating for homosexual practice in the country, but we should not take laws into our hands to harm and hate the homosexuals because we all have weaknesses,” the Archbishop said. He made the remarks at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Gulu Municipality at weekend while presiding over a wedding ceremony of Mr Patrick Omony and Ms Margret Akello. “The country has been struggling to have a law to criminalises homosexuality. However, the struggle has been frustrated by the constitutional courts. People should not take the laws into their hands and harm homosexuals, since they are also Human beings though with different sexual feelings,” he said. Archbishop Odama said the fight against homosexuality should focus on sensitising youth on the negative impacts of the practice since the vice contravenes cultural settings and norms. Earlier this month, the Constitutional Court did not rule on the substance of the anti-gay measure which allowed jail terms of up to life for homosexual offences, but threw out the law because it was passed during a session that lacked quorum. In 2012 during the installation of the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Stanley Ntagali, President Museveni said “gay people should not be killed or persecuted”. editorial@ug.nationmedia.com

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

PRESS RELEASE ON THE IMPLICATION OF THE SAME SEX MARRIAGE [PROHIBITION] ACT 2013 ON HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN NIGERIA

The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa, Mrs Reine Alapini-Gansou, has taken note of the promulgation on 13 January 2014 in Nigeria of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, and is deeply concerned about the consequences this law may have on sexual minorities who are already vulnerable as a result of social prejudice. The Special Rapporteur is concerned by some provisions of the Act, in particular Sections 4(1) and 5(2) which prohibit and provide for penalties against defenders of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. These provisions undermine the work of human rights defenders and are against any public debate on this crucial issue. The Special Rapporteur is concerned by the increase, following the enactment of the law, in cases of physical violence, aggression, arbitrary detention and harassment carried out against human rights defenders dealing with sexual minority rights issues. The Special Rapporteur strongly condemns such acts which are a violation of the right to life, physical integrity, and freedom of expression and assembly of human rights defenders. The Special Rapporteur would like to remind the Government of Nigeria of its international obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. The Special Rapporteur calls on the Government of Nigeria to ensure that human rights defenders are able to conduct their activities in an enabling environment that is free of stigma and reprisals. The Special Rapporteur would also like to encourage the Nigerian political authorities to continue their efforts towards ensuring the physical integrity and safety of human rights defenders in Nigeria. Banjul, 05 February 2014

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

PRESS STATEMENT For Immediate Release: 6 February 2014 Doctors, scientists warn Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill is a threat to public health Experts tell President it will have a ‘disastrous impact’ on the fight against HIV (Kampala, Uganda) Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill will pose a threat to public health if it becomes law by discouraging people from seeking medical care due to discrimination and intimidation, a panel of Ugandan and international medical experts has warned. The Bill would also create an environment of fear that will discourage health care providers and civil society organizations from providing essential prevention and treatment services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. In an open letter released today to President Museveni, available at www.AHB-OpenLetter.org, public health experts say that higher HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men means that the proposed law, which criminalizes “promotion” as well as “aiding and abetting of homosexuality,” will sabotage the country’s efforts to fight HIV. Uganda’s rate of new HIV infections has been on the rise since 2005, unlike virtually all other East and Southern African countries. The release of the letter comes on the eve of a Caucus meeting of the President’s political party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), where the Bill will be debated. This harmful Bill contradicts public health, human rights, and our ethical obligations as medical doctors and as Ugandans,” said Dr. Stephen Watiti, Board Chairperson of the Community Health Alliance of Uganda (CHAU), and a signatory to the open letter. “Uganda must ensure that everyone, whether heterosexual or lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, has access to essential health services, including HIV prevention and treatment. If passed into law, this Bill would dramatically undermine the fight against HIV—lives are literally hanging in the balance.” “Driving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities further underground is bad for their health, as well as the health of all of our people,” said Dennis Odwe, the Executive Director of Action Group for Health, Human Rights and HIV/AIDS (AGHA) Uganda. “Our politicians should focus on real priorities. we are calling on the President to veto this Bill.” The President on December 28 announced in a letter to the Speaker of Parliament that he was seeking out “evidence” regarding homosexuality to ensure the Bill reflected a “scientifically correct” position. “We welcome the President’s call for evidence on homosexuality,” said Flavia Kyomukama, Coordinator of the Global Coalition on Women and HIV in Uganda. “The science could not be more clear, and we implore him to act on that evidence: lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are not suffering from an illness. These people are our sons, daughters, and community members. They must be treated with dignity and respect, just like any of us.” The letter states that homosexuality is not “an abnormality, a mental disorder, or an illness,” and that people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are no more likely to be a threat to children than their heterosexual counterparts—in response to baseless claims made by the Bill’s supporters that the Bill will increase the protection of children. The doctors who signed the bill, many of whom have extensive frontline experience in public health in Uganda and other African countries, also raised major ethical concerns about the proposed law, warning that it will leave lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people “in fear of arrest, violence and intimidation.” For more information, contact: Dennis Odwe, Executive Director, AGHA Uganda +256772637740 or +256702083227 ENDS

Open letter from public health clinicians, researchers, and academics regarding Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

To His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda: We, the undersigned, are writing out of grave concern regarding the likely implications of Uganda’s Anti Homosexuality Bill (“the Bill”) should it be passed into law. We are clinicians, researchers and academics working in the field of public health. Many of us have extensive experience providing physical and mental health services and doing public health-focused research in sub-Saharan Africa. We note that Ugandan experts, including Uganda’s Human Rights Commission and the Uganda Law Society, have studied this Bill and found that it violates obligations under Uganda’s Constitution to protect and uphold fundamental freedoms of its people. This Bill also contradicts scientific evidence regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. In your letter sent on December 28 to the Rt. Hon. Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, you have expressed an interest in deliberating over evidence and science regarding sexual orientation and arriving at a “scientifically correct position” on the Bill.1 The purpose of this open letter is to focus on areas of particular concern to us as public health experts, beyond our fundamental support for the human rights and human dignity of all Ugandans: 1) the overwhelming evidence about homosexuality and the myths perpetuated by the Bill and 2) the likely public health implications of this Bill, should it become law in Uganda. 1. Myths and Facts About Homosexuality Your December 28 letter questions: a) whether homosexuality is an abnormality and b) whether homosexuality is a condition of which a person can be “cured” or “rescued.”2 Evidence from independent technical normative agencies and respected medical and sociological professional bodies around the world could not be more clear in response to both questions: Homosexuality is not a pathology, an abnormality, a mental disorder, or an illness—it is a variant of sexual behavior found in people around the world. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are normal. According to Uganda’s national diagnostics and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM), homosexuality is not classified as a mental disorder. Neither is homosexuality a condition from which a person can be “converted.” Despite claims to the contrary, there is no rigorous and peer reviewed scientific evidence that a person who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered can be “cured.”3 The Bill’s claim to protect children and families in Uganda appears to be derived from the harmful myth that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people pose a graver risk to children and families than people of other sexual orientations. There is no such evidence—lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people pose no greater risk to children than heterosexuals. In fact, sexual and physical violence experienced all too routinely by children and adolescents in Uganda would be unaddressed by this Bill. Implementation of this Bill would likely deplete the already limited resources invested in Uganda into robust investigations and prosecutions of cases of violence against children. Rather, the limited funds would be wasted on hunts by police for consenting adults suspected or accused of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. 2. Undermining public health and human rights This Bill would further exacerbate the marginalization, discrimination and exclusion of people known to or suspected of being homosexual. Research shows that laws and policies that increase stigma 1 The Daily Monitor, “Museveni blocks anti-homosexuality bill,” Yasiin Mugerwa. 17 January 2014. http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/Museveni-blocks-Anti-Homosexuality-Bill/-/688334/2148760/- /15lby8fz/-/index.html 2 Letter from President Museveni to Rt. Hon. Speaker Kadaga, 28 December 2013. Available at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/200400880/President-Museveni-s-Letter-on-Anti-Homosexuality-Bill 3 Cf. Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO). “ ‘Cures’ For an Illness that Does Not Exist: Purported Therapies Aimed at Changing Sexual Orientation Lack Medical Justification and are Ethically Unacceptable.” 15 May 2012, available at http://new.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_view&gid=17703 and Psychological Society of South Africa, “Sexual and Gender Diversity Position Statement,” 7 June 2013. and discrimination among groups of people mean those people are less able to access health services because of fear of arrest, intimidation, violence, and discrimination. For example, men who have sex with men in Uganda report higher HIV prevalence and higher rates of syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections than the general population.4 HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men in Kampala is 13%, more than three times the average prevalence among heterosexual men in Kampala (4.1%) and about twice as high as the national average of 7.3%. After years of success in the fight against HIV, Uganda’s incidence has been rising since 2005—contrary to the trends of virtually all other countries with high HIV burden in sub Saharan Africa.5 We are gravely concerned that passage of this Bill will exacerbate that negative trend. All people need essential health services, not the criminalization and discrimination this Bill would foment. Furthermore, driving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities away from services endangers not only them but also the Ugandan population at large—approximately 75% of men who have sex with men participating in a recent serosurvey report having sex with women as well as men.6 Discrimination undermines their health as well as the public health of the population of Uganda as a whole. Ironically, the Bill’s clause prohibiting the “promotion of homosexuality” as well as “aiding and abetting homosexuality” would criminalize urgently needed service delivery for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The Government of Uganda recently announced plans to implement government funded clinics designed to reach men who have sex with men and sex workers.7 This Bill, if passed into law, would sabotage such efforts by criminalizing them. This will have a disastrous impact on the response of the nation as a whole to HIV as well as other public health priorities. This clause would also put international and national health service providers funded by international donors at risk of criminal prosecution if they discuss homosexuality in the course of their work. The Bill conflicts with a health worker’s basic ethical obligation not to discriminate in the provision of medical services and would create a culture of fear of arrest and imprisonment among service providers. While a clause in earlier versions of the Bill that anyone suspected of being homosexual be reported to police might have been removed from the Bill that Parliament passed, the clause prohibiting promotion, aiding and abetting homosexuality would still force health workers to discriminate. Contrary to recent claims that health workers in Uganda do not engage in discrimination when providing services, Ugandans seeking health services in the public and private sectors frequently report being questioned by health workers about their sexual activities and marital status—creating for LGBT populations a legitimate fear of retaliation and discrimination if they are honest about their sexual orientation. This climate of fear would be markedly increased should the Bill become law. Scientific research also shows a powerful association between homophobic abuse and violence and increased vulnerability to HIV. This is not due to an intrinsic condition of homosexuality, but a harmful effect of homophobia. For example, men who have sex with men in Kampala who have experienced verbal or physical homophobic abuse are five times more likely to be HIV positive than men who have sex with men who have not experienced such abuse,8 indicating a strong association between stigma and intolerance and HIV infection risk. Hatred and stigma drives vulnerable and isolated communities such as men who have sex with men further from essential preventative and curative health services. We believe this Bill should not be passed into law—it blatantly defies highly corroborated scientific evidence and it would have a harmful impact on public health, human rights, and the freedom of all 4 Hladik W, Barker J, Ssenkusu JM, Opio A, Tappero JW, et al. (2012) HIV Infection among Men Who Have Sex with Men in Kampala, Uganda–A Respondent Driven Sampling Survey. PLoS ONE 7(5): e38143. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0038143 5 WHO: Global HIV/AIDS Response, Epidemic Update and Health Sector Progress Towards Universal Access, Progress Report, 2011. p. 12-17. 6 Supra note 4. 7 “Outrage, scepticism at Uganda U-turn on LGBTI clinics,” 9 Dec 2013. Available at: http://www.irinnews.org/report/99289/outrage-scepticism-at-uganda-u-turn-on-lgbti-clinics 8 Supra note 4. people to enjoy freedom from discrimination in Uganda. We implore that you veto this Bill in all forms. We note that Ugandan politicians and policymakers will meet February 6 in Kyankwanzi, Uganda where this issue will be discussed amongst the National Resistance Movement Caucus. Representatives of our group of signatories request the opportunity to join you in Kyankwanzi to share scientific evidence face-to-face, given the intense interest this topic has generated, apparent misinformation among decision makers, and the Bill’s serious consequences for Ugandans should it be passed into law. Signed, [list in formation] Organizations: International AIDS Society (IAS), Geneva, Switzerland Southern African HIV Clinicians Society HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) Infectious Diseases Society of America, Center for Global Health Policy The Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, University of Cape Town, South Africa The Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, Cape Town, South Africa The Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, Uganda Fenway Health, Boston, USA Individuals: Noerine Kaleeba, PhD Founder and Patron The AIDS Support Organisation Uganda Dr. Ian Clarke Chairman and CEO International Medical Group Kampala, Uganda Dr. Geoffrey Mujisha Executive Director, MARPs Network Kampala, Uganda Edith Mukisa Executive Director Community Health Alliance Uganda Kampala, Uganda Dr. Stephen Watiti Chairperson, Board of Directors Community Health Alliance Uganda Kampala, Uganda Dennis Odwe Executive Director Action Group for Health, Human Rights and Development (AGHA) Uganda Kampala, Uganda Professor Hoosen Coovadia Emeritus Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health, Emeritus Victor Daitz Professor of HIV/AIDS Research, University of KwaZulu-Natal Director, Maternal Adolescent and Child Health, University of the Witwatersrand Commissioner, National Planning Commission, The Presidency South Africa Professor Helen Rees Executive Director, Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg, South Africa Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim Associate Scientific Director Center for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) Durban, South Africa Sergii Dvoriak MD, Ph.D. Head of the Board Ukrainian Institute of Public Health Policy Kiev, Ukraine Richard E. Chaisson, MD Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology and International Health Director, Center for TB Research and Center for AIDS Research Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, USA Professor Adeeba Kamarulzaman Dean, Faculty of Medicine University of Malaya Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Professor Francois Venter Deputy Executive Director, Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg, South Africa Joel E. Gallant, MD, MPH Adjunct Professor of Medicine Division of Infectious Diseases Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Baltimore, USA Allan Raggi Executive Director Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium (KANCO) Nairobi, Kenya Professor Michael Adler, CBE Emeritus Professor of Genitourinary Medicine and Sexually Transmitted Diseases University College Medical School London, UK Casper W. Erichsen Executive Director Positive Vibes Trust Windhoek, Namibia Richard B. Krueger, MD Medical Director, Sexual Behavior Clinic New York State Psychiatric Institute & Columbia University Department of Psychiatry Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry Columbia University, Department of Psychiatry New York, USA Jens Lundgren, MD DMSc Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen Professor, Director of Copenhagen HIV Programme, Centre of Global Excellence (CHIP) Department of Infectious Diseases and Rheumatology Copenhagen, Denmark Ambrose Agweyu, MBChB, MSc Clinical Epidemiologist Kenya Medical Research Institute Nairobi, Kenya Kenneth Mayer MD Director of HIV Prevention Research Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Professor of Medicine Harvard Medical School Sten H. Vermund, MD, PhD Amos Christie Chair of Global Health Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Nashville, USA Coleen K. Cunningham, MD Chief, Infectious Diseases Pediatrics Chief, Global Health Pediatrics Duke University Medical Center Durham, USA Professor Yousuf A Vawda Academic Leader, Public Law School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal Durban, South Africa Professor Jeam van Bergen, MD, MPh, PhD Professor STI in Primary Care, University of Amsterdam-AMC Department of General Practice Amsterdam, The Netherlands J├╝rgen Rockstroh, Professor of Medicine Chair of the German National AIDS Council Head of HIV-Clinic Department of Medicine I University of Bonn Germany Anand Pandya, MD Vice Chair for Clinical Affairs, University of Southern California Department of Psychiatry Chief of Psychiatry, Los Angeles County General Hospital Los Angeles, USA Lisa Hirschhorn, MD MPH Partners in Health Harvard Medical School Boston, USA Professor Brook K. Baker Northeastern University School of Law Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy Honorary Research Fellow, University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban, South Africa Professor Linda-Gail Bekker Professor of Medicine Deputy Director, The Desmond Tutu HIV Centre University of Cape Town South Africa Frederick L. Altice, MD Professor of Medicine and Public Health Yale University New Haven, USA Professor Aikichi Iwamoto, MD Division of Infectious Diseases Advanced Clinical Research Center The Institute of Medical Science The University of Tokyo (IMSUT) Alvaro Bermejo, MD, MPH Executive Director International HIV/AIDS Alliance Hove, UK Dr Natasha Davies, MBBCH, HIV Management Diploma, MPH Technical Specialist, Adult Care & Treatment Wits Reproductive Health & HIV Institute Johannesburg, South Africa Andy Gray BPharm MSc (Pharm) FPS FFIP Senior Lecturer, Division of Pharmacology Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences School of Health Sciences Consultant Pharmacist (Research Associate) Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), University of KwaZulu- Natal South Africa Stephen L. Boswell, MD President and CEO Fenway Health Boston, MA Assistant Professor of Medicine Harvard Medical School Melanie Thompson, MD Principal Investigator AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta Atlanta, USA Lyn van Rooyen Director, CABSA Johannesburg, South Africa Noah Metheny, MPH Director of Policy The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) Wendy Armstrong, MD Associate Professor of Medicine, Infectious Diseases Emory University School of Medicine Atlanta, USA Wim Vandevelde Global TB Community Advisory Board, Chair Cape Town, South Africa Professor Michael Meltsner Matthews Distinguished University Professor of Law Northeastern University School of Law Boston, USA Prof Roy Chan President Action for AIDS Singapore Dr. Andrew Scheibe HIV Key Populations Consultant Cape Town, South Africa Dr Michelle Moorhouse Member, Board of Directors, Southern African HIV Clinicians Society Elizabeth Levy Paluck Assistant Professor of Psychology and Public and International Affairs Princeton University Princeton, USA Wendy E. Parmet Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Matthews Distinguished University Professor of Law Northeastern University School of Law Boston, USA Polly Clayden HIV i-Base London, UK Veronica Miller, PhD Director, Forum for Collaborative HIV Research Visiting Professor, University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health USA Benjamin Hauschild, MPH Senior Research Associate, Forum for Collaborative HIV Research University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health USA Professor Gwynne Skinner Willamette University College of Law Salem, USA Keith M Mullei, MPH Health systems and health policy researcher Nairobi, Kenya Christine L. Lin Clinical Instructor and Staff Attorney Center for Gender & Refugee Studies Refugee & Human Rights Clinic University of California, Hastings College of the Law San Francisco, USA Deborah A. Ramirez Professor of Law Northeastern University School of Law Boston, USA Francisco J. Rivera Juaristi Director, International Human Rights Clinic Assistant Clinical Professor of Law Santa Clara University School of Law Santa Clara, USA Stephen A. Rosenbaum Visiting Senior Lecturer, University of Washington School of Law John & Elizabeth Boalt Lecturer, University of California, Berkeley School of Law USA Felicia Price, RN, BSN, MIA Technical Advisor - Community Health and HIV Christian Aid Bujumbura, Burundi Judith D. Auerbach, PhD Adjunct Professor School of Medicine University of California San Francisco, USA Anna Forbes, MSS Independent consultant specializing in HIV, rights, women and gender Washington DC, USA Rosalind P. Petchesky Distinguished Professor of Political Science (Emerita) Hunter College & the Graduate Center, City University of New York USA

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Homosexuality is regarded as a genetical condition

By Peter Mulira Homosexuality has been scientifically defined as “a romantic attraction, sexual attraction or sexual behaviour between members of the same sex. In his article in your issue of January 23 titled, “Why does the West criminalise polygamy and allow homosexuality? ” Mr Daniel Kalinaki asked an a interesting question. The answer to this question is central to the issue as to whether or not we should have an anti-gays law on our statute book. Many Ugandans are opposed to homosexuality on religious and cultural grounds. Our church leaders are in the forefront of the fight against this practice which is condemned in biblical writings. The cultural argument revolves around the point that the practice is un-African and an importation from the West. Unfortunately, these grounds do not take into account the scientific angle to the problem. Homosexuality has been scientifically defined as “a romantic attraction, sexual attraction or sexual behaviour between members of the same sex. As an orientation, homosexuality refers to an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual affection or romantic attraction primarily or exclusively with a member of the same sex. It also refers to an individual’s sense of personal and social identity based on those attractions, behaviours expressing them and membership in a community of others who share them.” Accordingly, there are three types of homosexuality “a romantic, sexual attraction and sexual behaviour.” The practice of homosexuality was discriminated in the Western world until a change of attitude came about in 1973 when the American Psychiatric Association removed the practice from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders. This negated the previous definition of homosexuality as a clinical disorder. Quebec became the first jurisdiction to prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and most developed countries followed the example of Quebec in the1980s and 1990s. Since then, a lot of scientific studies results have proved that the common assumption that homosexuality or any sexual orientation is a choice which one can avoid as a misconception. In 2010, the Royal College of Psychiatrists in England submitted to the Church of England a report titled “Submissions to the Church of England’s Listening Exercise on Human Sexuality” in which it found that “……sexual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of genetic factors and the early uterine environment. Sexual orientation is, therefore, not a choice.” In another work Professor Michael King writing in the Church Times of November 16, 2007 under the title “How much is known about the origins of homosexuality” said “The conclusion reached by scientist who have investigated the origins of sexual orientation is that it is a human characteristic that is formed in early life and is resistant to change. Scientific evidence on the origins of homosexuality is considered relevant to theological and social debate because it undermines suggestions that sexual orientation is a choice.” Another scholar, Garcia-Falgmens has shed more light on why people become gay. He writes in “Sexual Hormones and the Brain: An Essential Alliance for Sexual Orientation” that “The fetal brain develops during intrauterine period in the male direction through a direct action of testosterone on the development of nerve cells, or in the female through the absence of this hormone surge. In this way our gender identity (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and sexual orientation are programmed or organised into our brain structures. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender identity or sexual orientation.” The first record of a possible homosexual couple in history is an ancient Egyptian couple known as Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum, who lived around 2400BCE. Anthropologists Stephen Murray and Will Roscoe (“Boy Wives and Female Husbands: Studies of African Homosexuality”) have reported that women in Lesotho engaged in socially “long-term erotic relationships” called motsoalle. Again in “Sexual Inversion among the Azande” Evans Pritchards notes that male Azande warriors in the northern Congo routinely took on male lovers who helped with household tasks. Here in Uganda, the practice was rampant in Buganda in the 1850s as a result of the arrival of Arab traders during reign of King Mutesa 1 and was given the name of “ebisiyaga”. It is, therefore, not true that the practice is a recent importation from the West. The present attitude in the developed world is that although gays’ sexual orientation is different as human beings they have certain inalienable rights which cannot be taken away by those who do not approve of such orientation. Two attempts have been made to make this a universal doctrine. A resolution in the United Nations General Assembly sponsored by the French and Dutch representatives condemning violence, harassment, discrimination and prejudice against homosexuals has already been signed by 94 countries. On June 17 2011 South Africa initiated a resolution in the United Nations Commission for Human Rights requesting for a report on the situation of gays worldwide. The resolution was carried by 23 to 19 countries and a draft report has already come out. To answer Kalinaki’s question, therefore, one has to say that the West criminalises polygamy because it is a social evil while homosexualitily is regarded as a genetical condition which one cannot change. peter.mulira@gmail.com