UN rights chief criticizes proposed Uganda legislation against homosexuality

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Friday strongly criticized [press release; UN News Centre report] proposed legislation [text, PDF] in Uganda which would implement harsh punishments for homosexual behavior, including the death penalty in some circumstances. The bill includes provisions which would allow sentences of life imprisonment for people who are be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered, and also allows the death penalty [AFP report] in situations of "aggravated homosexuality," which includes the rape of a minor or where an individual carries the AIDS virus. The bill also imposes punishments of up to three years in prison for those who fail to report the identity of a person who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered within 24 hours, including family members. Pillay emphasized what she characterized as "blatantly discriminatory" nature of the bill, and also discussed the international human rights implications of the legislation:

It is extraordinary to find legislation like this being proposed more than 60 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – as well as many subsequent international laws and standards – made it clear this type of discrimination is unacceptable.

I would like to remind the Ugandan Government of the country’s obligations under international human rights law. Uganda is a party to the core human rights treaties and has generally had a good track record of cooperation with the various international human rights mechanisms. This bill threatens to seriously damage the country's reputation in the international arena.
Pillay said she was somewhat reassured by indications that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni [official profile] would not support [BBC report] the bill.

The bill was originally introduced [BBC report] in October by David Bahati, an MP from the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM)[party website]. Bahati has described [AP report] the bill as an attempt to prevent the recognition of homosexuality and to protect children from sexual abuse. Earlier this month, Bahati refused [AP report] calls from the government to withdraw the bill amid fears that it reduce foreign investment. Uganda currently criminalizes [BBC report] homosexual behavior with up to 14 years in prison. The Ugandan parliament is expected to debate the bill in late February or early March.

 

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