Rights Body Attacks Uganda Over Gay Ban
Monitor, July 26, 2005
By Grace Matsiko
KAMPALA—The Human Rights Watch (HRW),
a global human rights body has attacked Uganda for proposing a law banning
same sex marriage saying it is deepening repression.
“In voting for a constitutional amendment to
criminalise marriage between persons of the same sex, Uganda’s Parliament
has struck a gratuitous blow for prejudice and against basic human rights”,
the HRW said in a statement posted on its website on Thursday.
“Uganda already imposes draconian prison sentences on
people who engage in homosexual conduct,” Mr Scott Long, the director of the
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights programmes at HRW said.
About a fortnight ago, the Parliament approved a proposed
constitutional amendment stating that “marriage is lawful only if entered
into between a man and a woman,” and that “it is unlawful for same-sex
couples to marry.”
“New criminal penalties against people who dare to
marry can only have one purpose: to codify prejudice against same-sex
couples,” Long said.
Same-sex sexual relations are criminalised in Uganda
under a sodomy law.
The law was strengthened in 1990. Section 140 of the
Penal Code (PC) criminalises “carnal knowledge against the order of
nature” with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Section 141 of the PC punishes “attempts” at carnal
knowledge with a maximum of seven years’ imprisonment.
Section 143 punishes acts of “gross indecency” with
up to five years in prison. In February, the Media Council, a state media
monitoring body banned a staging of the play, “The Vagina Monologues” by
the U.S.A author, Ms Eve Ensler, because it “promotes illegal acts of
unnatural sexual acts, homosexuality and prostitution.”
“Basic freedoms of expression, association and respect
for private life are at stake in Uganda,” said Long.
“Members of Parliament should reject this amendment and
the campaign to stigmatise and silence people because of their sexual
orientation,” Long said. HRW urged that Uganda was a party to the United
Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee, which recognises that discrimination
based on sexual orientation is barred by the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights.
“The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has held
that arrests for consensual homosexual conduct are by definition human rights
violations,” the statement said.
In March, an HRW report on
‘Abstinence-until-marriage” HIV prevention programmes in Uganda’ said
the programme was jeopardising Uganda’s fight against Aids by denying the
youth information about other methods of HIV prevention.
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