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

Friday, November 29, 2013

Teachers to lose jobs over concealing homosexuality

By AL-MAHDI SSENKABIRWA KAMPALA- School administrators who conceal information about immoral acts of homosexuality and lesbianism in schools risk losing their jobs, according to new guidelines. This will be effected in a revised implementation of the government’s revised Teaching Service Regulations and Teachers’ Professional Code of Conduct. According to the amended Code of Conduct, such immorality will be regarded as acts of misconduct which will earn a teacher dismissal or retirement in public interest. “Such acts have been happening in education institutions but we had no legal instrument holding perpetrators accountable. But with the new regulations, we can now impose sanctions against any culprit,” said Mr Mathew Okot-Garimoi, the deputy chairperson Uganda Education Service Commission. Mr Okot-Garimoi was speaking at the launch of the Teaching Service Regulations 2012 and Teachers’ Professional Code of Conduct, 2012 in Kampala on Tuesday. Both regulations replace those of 1994 and 1996 respectively. Homosexuality is a crime under Uganda’s laws. However, the vice is reportedly spreading, especially in institutions of learning. assenkabirwa@ug.nationmedia.com

Nightmare is over for gay Briton Bernard Randall put on trial in Uganda after images of him having sex were stolen by thieves and used against him in 'blackmail plot'

Bernard Randall, the gay British man who is being prosecuted in Uganda after images of him having sex were stolen and used against him in an alleged blackmail plot is to be deported back to Britain next week, The Independent can reveal. Mr Randall, who was arrested last month after his laptop was stolen by thieves and pictures from it published in a newspaper, was told this week that he had been refused an extension to his visa - originally demanded of him so he could stand trial - and will be returned to the UK on 6 December. The 65-year-old, from Faversham, Kent, toldThe Independent that he believed the visa issue was being used by the Ugandan authorities to avoid being seen as persecuting homosexuals and that while he wished for the criminal case against to be formally dropped he was also glad “to escape this nightmare”. The retired banking industry computer analyst, who lost his wife of nearly 40 years in 2011 and subsequently came out as homosexual, had been facing up to two years in jail after he was charged with trafficking obscene material following the theft of his computer from his holiday home in Entebbe in September. His Ugandan partner, Albert Cheptoyek, 33, faces a more serious charge of up to seven years’ imprisonment for “acts of gross indecency” under Ugandan law, which outlaws homosexuality. Both men have denied the charges. But while Mr Cheptoyek’s future remains uncertain, it now seems Mr Randall, whose friends and supporters within the gay rights movement have held protests in London, is to be allowed to return - with reluctance and anger - to Britain. His departure date will be the same as he had booked when he arrived in Uganda in September. He told The Independent: “For the sake of my family and friends my wish is to be able to leave as originally planned on 6 December to spend Christmas with them. I want no bar on me returning at some time in the future but I see that now as a forlorn hope. I want to escape this nightmare. “I want the robbers and blackmailers to be found guilty of their crimes and punished accordingly and I want us to be found not guilty of the false charges against us or for the charges to be struck down. But I see no sign of fair justice in this country.” He added: “I also see this as a move by the Ugandan authorities at the highest level to get me deported without it being seen as an anti-homosexuality related action.” To add insult to injury, Mr Randall has been told that now his visa extension has been refused he is liable to a fine of £18 per day for every day he remains in Uganda until his planned deportation. It will be a grim end to an adventure born out of grief for the Briton, who first visited Uganda two years ago when a close friend booked a trip to help sort out a visa for his new wife and suggested the retiree accompany him. Mr Randall’s friend suggested a trip to Uganda would help with the bereavement process. With its lush countryside and gleaming Lake Victoria, it wasn’t long before he had found a home away from home. He said: “I was here for a fortnight and I liked the place. It’s so green and you’ve got the lake and friendly people.” After spending April this year in the “Pearl of Africa” Randall returned to Britain and then came back to Uganda in September and it was his intention to spend three months here, have a white Christmas back in Britan and then return to Africa. Now his tropical dreams lie in tatters after his computer, which contained a video of him having sex with another man in Morocco, thousands of miles away, was stolen. Mr Randall said the charges against him had come about after four people stole computers and money from him and Cheptoyek, targeting them because they suspected they were gay. In Uganda homosexual acts are illegal and punishable by incarceration in prison for up to 14 years. Nearly a year ago the country’s Parliamentary speaker vowed to have the “kill the gays Bill”, introduced in 2009 and seeking the death penalty for some offences, passed by the end of 2012 as a “Christmas gift”. She failed and the Bill has been shelved, although it's still on the Parliamentary Order Paper. Randall said the robbery occurred on 28 September, just over a week after he had arrived back in Uganda. “The intention in the first instance was them to find something incriminating that they could blackmail me with,” he said. Having failed he claims the alleged thieves and their associates contacted Pastors Moses Solomon Male, who leads Uganda’s “anti-homosexuality crusade” with one saying Randall wanted to sodomise him. Randall said his charge related to the claim that he was distributing CDs to recruit people into homosexuality. “I really can’t see how the pictures published or really anything in the videos would lure a young boy into being homosexual but that’s why they’re bringing the case, because I bought it in to distribute, in their eyes,” he said. He said Pastor Male was an “evil person” who was “whipping up hatred” against gays, Speaking at his home on the weekend, Pastor Male alleged Randall had given the video to Wasswa Sentamu Jonadh, who he claimed wanted to travel abroad and get a better job. Randall, Pastor Male claimed, said he would help him however Wasswa and Eric Bugembe, who he said had been a driver for Randall, were charged with theft after they “refused sodomy”. Male said he was alerted about the matter by a concerned person. Wasswa had kept a second copy of the sex video, which Male admitted to passing onto Red Pepper who he’d worked with before on “complicated cases which need investigations”. He branded Randall a “persona non grata”. “We have Ugandan homosexuals who we cannot send to any other country, even as they abuse,” Pastor Male said. “If we have Randall who can be deported, he goes back to his country and continues enjoying sodomoy, then I think we’ll be saving many young lives in this country.” However he stressed “we are against the practice called homosexuality, not individuals called homosexuals”. Bugembe and Wasswa appeared in court last Thursday charged with theft. They are due back on December 2. Randall and Cheptoyek appeared in court last Monday, when their case was adjourned to December 4. A married Ugandan mother of two young boys, who asked not to be identified, turned up to support the pair. She said she’d known Cheptoyek for a decade through buying clothes from him through his business. “Everybody’s (going) crazy about it but this is who they are,“ she said. “I’m conflicted a little bit (about homosexuality) but I also understand that there are people who are born like this. With the amount of hate and how they’re treated when somebody finds out that somebody’s gay, why would you choose, how can you choose to live that kind of lifestyle?” Randall said he appreciated the support from Ugandans and people in Britain including Stephen Fry and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. “It’s terrific isn’t it?” When asked how he was feeling Randall said “up and down”. “I haven’t yet, since the problems started, gone out on my own and gotten a taxi from our place up to town, things like that,” he said. “But I don’t in actual fact think it would be a problem.” He said his two adult daughters in the UK were struggling to deal with the situation. “The older one is more levelheaded about it but obviously very worried,” said Randall. “The other one is much more emotional and she’s having a difficult time with it.” Meanwhile Cheptoyek has been ostracized by some family and may apply for asylum abroad if the case is dropped. “The worry (is) can he get a visa to go to the UK, would he want to stay in the UK forever, would he need to go and seek refugee status? He doesn’t want to leave Uganda and I want to be able to come back.” Speaking himself Cheptoyek said “We don’t know if we are going to be killed because we’re already in the newspaper so everyone knows I’m gay and we’re scared for our lives because in Uganda it’s not allowed.” Longjones (alias - not real name), a Ugandan trying to start a travel business specializing in gay safaris, stood as surety for David Cecil, the British theatre producer deported from Uganda in January after staging a play ending with a gay character being killed. Cecil is in the process of appealing his case. This time Longjones stood as surety for Randall. “What the police have failed to understand is that people blackmail homosexuals to extort money,” he said.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gay activists protest arrests

SUNDAY, 24 NOVEMBER 2013 WRITTEN BY SHIFA MWESIGYE Anger is brewing in the gay community at home and abroad, as a criminal case against the chairman of a sexual minorities group starts today at the Nabweru Magistrate’s court in Wakiso district. Samuel Ganafa, executive director of Spectrum Uganda and chairman of Sexual Minorities Uganda, was arrested last week and paraded before the media by the police. He is accused of infecting one Disan Twesiga with HIV, although it is unclear how it happened. Ganafa, who has been detained at Kasangati prison, says he was tested for HIV against his consent and his home raided without a search warrant. He was briefly detained with Bernard Randell and Albert Cheptoyek, who are both facing related charges. Randell, a 65-year-old retired British expatriate, was charged with trafficking in obscene publications. The two were arrested after Randell reported a taxi driver, one Eric Bugembe, to the police for reportedly stealing his laptop. The laptop, it is said, contained videos of Randell performing acts of homosexuality with Cheptoyek, evidence that was produced in court. Bugembe told the police that he had taken the laptop after Randell refused to pay him after luring him into sexual acts. Randell, who has since been released on bail, and Cheptoyek, who is still in detention, return to court in Entebbe on December 4. Rising tension These two cases have attracted the ire of gay activists, who last week demonstrated outside the Uganda High Commission in London, protesting what they called the witch-hunt of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people in Uganda. The protests follow a similar demonstration outside the just concluded Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka, at which Uganda was mentioned amongst the Commonwealth nations violating the rights of LGBT people. Gay rights activists say homosexual people in Uganda live in fear of a police crackdown similar to the one that netted Ganafa, Randell and Cheptoyek. Peter Tatchell, director of the UK-based Peter Tatchell Foundation, a gay rights organisation, says homophobic harassment of gay people violates Uganda’s constitution as well as the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. Criminalisation of homosexuality is contrary to human rights obligations, which Uganda has agreed and pledged to uphold, Tatchell argues. LGBT activists who gathered outside Uganda’s high commission last week asked the British government to intervene immediately in Randell’s case to secure his safe return to the UK. They also want Britain and the European Union to declare Uganda an unsafe place for LGBT people and issue travel warnings to potential tourists and expatriates accordingly. The activists also called for travel bans targeting outspoken anti-LGBT activists such as Ethics minister Simon Lokodo, MP David Bahati and pastors Martin Ssempa and Solomon Male. Same-sex relationships are illegal in Uganda as they are in many sub-Saharan African countries. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill tabled in parliament a couple of years ago sought to further criminalise such sexual behaviour by proposing a death penalty for repeat offenders and those accused of transmitting HIV in the process. However, pressure from Western countries has seen the bill amended to remove the death penalty and then shelved. Nevertheless, homosexuality remains an offence under the Penal Code. Early this month, the European Court of Justice ruled that people fleeing from a country where homosexuality is criminalised, like Uganda, can seek asylum on that basis. The ruling, which binds all EU member countries, including Britain, followed an application for asylum by three homosexuals from Sierra Leone, Uganda and Senegal. smwesigye@observer.ug