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Letter to Ugandan President and members of Parliament - Invitation to sign!

We have listened to your voices and as promised, are taking them straight to Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and members of Parliament in protest of the proposed anti-gay bill that, if passed, would mean life imprisonment or the death penalty for the LGBT community.

Please read the letter below, which was crafted in collaboration with the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. At the end of the letter, I have included (with their permission) quotes and names from PulseWire members who participated in the Action Blogging Campaign - LGBT Rights.

For those of you who have not yet had the chance to participate, please make a comment on this journal to add your name to the letter. I will send the letter at the end of the week, so sign by March 4 to be included.

Your Excellencies:

We, as a global community of women, are writing to express concern about legislation that would severely restrict the rights of Ugandan citizens, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and their defenders, in direct contravention of domestic and international law.

The negative repercussions of the bill in Uganda will be immediate and severe. It effectively bans the free association and expression that are necessary for a flourishing civil society, and creates a climate of fear and hostility that undermines the citizenship and solidarity of all Ugandans. It will lend itself to misapplication and abuse, and implicitly encourages persecution of LGBT people by private actors. Effective HIV prevention activities in Uganda, which rely on an ability to talk frankly about sexuality and provide condoms and other safer-sex materials, will be difficult, if not impossible.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill violates National Objective 5(2) of the Ugandan Constitution, which provides that "the State shall guarantee and respect the independence of non-governmental organizations which protect and promote human rights." Moreover, it directly violates the right to equality and freedom from discrimination (Article 21), the right to privacy (Article 27), the right to freedoms of speech, expression, association, and assembly (Article 29), the protection of minorities (Article 36), and the protection of civic rights and activities (Article 38) to which all Ugandans are entitled. It also violates the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and other international human rights treaties to which Uganda is a party. This bill undermines Uganda's commitment to the international human rights regime and threatens the basic human rights of all its citizens.

The Bill's revocation of fundamental rights would also seriously undermine the country's reputation and credibility in the international arena. Because it claims jurisdiction over Ugandans who violate its provisions while outside of the country, the Bill will strain Uganda's relations with regional and international partners.

While people may hold differing opinions about sexual orientation and gender identity, the legislation before Parliament is an ineffective and fundamentally illegal way to express opposition to a minority group. In recognition of the importance of a diverse, dynamic civil society and the domestic and international commitments that Uganda has made, I urge you to swiftly dismiss the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 and reaffirm the rights and responsibilities of all Ugandans.

Please read the quotes below and listen to the voices of women in Africa and around the world who urge you to consider the ramifications of this bill.

Sincerely,

The following members of PulseWire, World Pulse's global, online community of grassroots women leaders

“When Bahati talks about upholding the family unit, I am lost at which family unit he is talking about. Because as an African, I know from living it and learning from my own family that we share, we believe in having enough for everyone and your neighbor being your own sister. We live in homesteads and not apartments (until civilization was forced onto us/or taught). We till the land together and prepare the meals together....and together here stands for my immediate nuclear family and the whole extended family that exists from our bonds...aunties, cousins, friends, homeless people and everyone else who will invite themselves over for our shared meal because they know for sure-there is enough for all of us...so when Bahati says family unit with a father mother two children and a dog image in his head, I wonder which part of Africa he grew up in thus whose voice he represents.”

Pouline Kimani, Kenya

“Desmond Tutu stated at the launching of the book 'Sex, Love and Homophobia' that homophobia is a 'crime against humanity' and 'every bit as unjust' as apartheid. He added that ‘we struggled against apartheid in South Africa, supported by people the world over, because black people were being blamed and made to suffer for something we could do nothing about; our very skins...It is the same with sexual orientation. It is a given.’

How are we to evolve and progress society, if fear and obstruction is allowed commonplace. If homosexuality is the new apartheid - the absolute degradation of a part of society, the clear and conspicuous ostracizing of people based on sexual orientation. Oppressing homosexuality clearly conflicts with deeper issues of human rights. It speaks to a lack of social validation, creates opportunities for vigilantes and openly disregards individual choices.”

Gisela G., South Africa

“Death penalty or life imprisonment of people based on their sexual orientation is one of the most inhuman acts we can face. What about the right to live, be happy and free will? I hope that the bill in Uganda won´t pass, I am stunned!”

Drita Bajrami, Sweden

“Under ‘foreign policy’ do you and your cabinet take the ‘HIGH ROAD’ of Articles 1, 5, 7, 9,12,16 & 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and accept and support ALL people? Or do you and your cabinet take the fear-mongering low road of discrimination and violence that may well lead to a call of ‘crimes against humanity’ and take you before the International Criminal Court? What do you want? What are you willing to do to be a true hero adored by ALL your people?

I, as a citizen of the United States of America, I support this country in supporting you to have the courage and fortitude to lead your great country in taking the ‘HIGH ROAD’ of tolerance and compassion.”

K-lee Starland, USA

“Acceptance of homosexuality as normal may be related to just that: accepting, more generally, that categories of sex and gender are not absolutes, nor necessarily desirable. Shift attention to what really makes us humans unique, and so precious: the ability to love, the will to explore, the need to share.”

Mauri, Italy

"Sexual orientation is a human right and homosexuals have a right to be protected by the state. Governments in Africa should create an environment that upholds the rights of homosexuals. This will reduce stigma and discrimination, increase understanding and awareness and ensure that the rights of every individual are respected and the responsibilities of every individual are understood."

Gertrude Pswarayi, Zimbabwe

"All eyes are now on the parliamentarians to debate and come up with the best vote on this controversial bill. But if only Africans could learn to accommodate the rights of others and to appreciate diversity in humankind..."

Joanne Wanjala, Kenya

"As activists and Human Rights Defenders working for the rights of LGBT persons in our countries, we face countless threats ourselves. Homophobia and Homophobic hate crimes must stop. Uganda's anti gay legislation and similar incidents can happen in our countries too."

Equal Ground, Sri Lanka

"There is a need in Bolivia, and all over the world, of education in all fronts of sex. This means that focusing in healthier sex rather than making youngsters afraid of living their sexuality in an open, healthy and safe way is only to be accomplished through more education, but not only about what sex is, but about how to make it work for them, not against them.

Family and especially parents are the ones more closely involved in making boys and girls accept their sexuality and lead a happier life, without taking risks that are unnecessary and worthless."

Jacqueline Patiño, Bolivia

Comments

DonnaBeth's picture

Letter to Ugandan President

My heart has long been with Africa, and my fondest hope that Africa--all of Africa--could learn the hard lessons the West has learned (and is still learning) without making the same mistakes. One of those lessons is the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Our sexuality is not a choice, and if we believe that all of us come from the same source, then our variations in color, height, gender, and sexual orientation are predetermined, and they are all of equal value. There is no place for, and no purpose served by, criminalizing people for who they are. To do so is to create a climate of fear and encourage persecution, and hold Uganda up to the world as a symbol of hatred and intolerance. I don't think that represents the true character of such a wonderful country.

jadefrank's picture

speaking out

Hi Donna Beth,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this issue and for joining us in calling for Uganda to veto this hateful bill. I will add your name and comments to the letter!

Warm regards,
Jade

Starland's picture

Good job

Way to go, Jade. Holding good thoughts.
K-lee

K-lee Starland, Ph.D.

jadefrank's picture

together

Thanks K-lee, and thank you for participating! Together we are powerful!

Hugs,
Jade

sunita.basnet's picture

Human Rights

While reading this post, I remembered a friend from Thailand saying that "I am lesbian, gay, triple lesbian whatever, doesn't I have rights to live in this society. I should have my rights of my own body. Why the government is decidecing about my body and about us?" in One Young World summit in London. I do believe that, as a basic human rights, LGBT are also human beings before any other things so they should have the rights to be whatever they want. Rather than involving in crime related with sex, it's better to be LGBT .

Therefore the Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and members of Parliament should not pass the bill against the LGBT community.

Once again, thanks Jade for bringing this out.

Love much

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

jadefrank's picture

friends and faces

Hi Sunita,

Thank you for sharing your friend's words and her struggle to protect her rights and her body. Sometimes it helps to be able to put a face - a friend or relative - to the cause, as we come to understand the issue in terms of humans, not just differences. And I agree - why would society spend efforts criminalizing innocent people, while there are others out there causing real physical harm to humanity.

I will add your words and your name to the letter!

Hugs,
Jade

Mei Li's picture

Stripping Labels

When I was going through yoga teacher certification one of my assignments was this:

Go home and write who you are.
But wait, it's not that easy.
First, before you write who you are, you must strip yourself of associated labels : gay, married, parent, writer, student, vegetarian, humanitarian, activist, advocate, gardener, dog companion, friend, lover, sister, daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, counselor, mechanic, housekeeper, beekeeper, teamaker, clothweaver, etc.

Now....

who are you?

I think that we will find...all of us...when we ask ourselves who we are in this context, when we remove any/every label once used as a barrier, a form of segregation, with all of these labels dissolved...we will understand the truth of the matter. We will understand how to move forward. Many of us understand already, but it is clear that many also do not. I'll toast to human equality everywhere tonight, knowing whole-heartedly that the answer to the question leaves us all silently questioning all that we know and have built around ourselves.

"...our compassion is the practice of unconditioning." Jakusho Kwong Roshi

I dont really think that Bahati has any knowledge about sex ,sexuality and identities.I still believe he has been taken for a ride by people who are hiding the truth from him.The likes of Ssempa,Langa,Male etc have brainwashed this guy.
All these people are just full of hate and they decided to look for a village boy who has no knowledge about sexuality for their won gains.He says he is protecting the African Traditional family....mmmmhhh I wonder how when all his Bill is trying to do is turn families against each other by spying and witch hunting each other.
Shame but its very true we have some people with stone hearts without any nerves and pressure.
Bombastic,Uganda

jadefrank's picture

end the hate

Hi Bombastic,

Thank you for speaking out against this hateful bill. One comment especially struck me, "He says he is protecting the African Traditional family....mmmmhhh I wonder how when all his Bill is trying to do is turn families against each other by spying and witch hunting each other." So true. This bill won't protect Ugandan families - it will only tear them apart.

I will add your name and comments to the letter.

In solidarity,
Jade

We speak on behalf of Ugandans who are too afraid to speak out against legislation President Obama has called "odious". You may think that the international community know nothing about Uganda but we have listened to your countrymen, to citizens who fear for their lives, to family members who are afraid they will be forced to spy on their loved ones, to people who respect their neighbours and have told us they do not support the bill. Instead of becoming known as the country that abused your citizens' basic human rights and forced many people into hiding, be an example for Africa and show them that you care about your people, ALL your people.

jadefrank's picture

including all people

Thank you Janice for adding your voice in addressing Ugandan Parliament. Let's see how far our voices can carry!

Love,
Jade

Hi Jade,

I would like my name to be added to the letter to Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and members of Parliament in protest of the proposed anti-gay bill.

Sexuality is a central aspect of human life and a human right.

The Yogyakarta Principles affirm that human beings of all sexual orientations and gender identities are entitled to the full enjoyment of all human rights: http://www.yogyakartaprinciples.org/principles_en.htm

Human rights include sexual rights, such as:
The rights of all persons, free of coercion, discrimination and violence:
• to the highest attainable standard of sexual health, and to access to sexual and reproductive health care services;
• to seek, receive and impart information related to sexuality;
• to sexuality education;
• to respect for bodily integrity;
• to choose their partner;
• to decide to be sexually active or not;
• to consensual sexual relations; to consensual marriage;
• to decide whether or not, and when, have children; and
• to pursue a satisfying, safe and pleasurable sexual life.

http://www.who.int/hrp/publications/progress67.pdf

The proposed bill goes against well established human rights principles.

Katie McDonald

jadefrank's picture

unholding human rights

Hi Katie,

Thank you for signing the letter and imparting us with these important principles. By speaking out and letting our voices be heard, we are making a difference. No matter how small the ripple starts... the more who makes splashes... there is no stopping this tidal wave of voice.

Hugs,
Jade

Mei Li's picture

One voice, one pulse

For my sisters hiding their glances and soft touches - my voice will be your moonlight.
For my brothers' gazes forever thrown over their shoulders - my voice will be your sunlight.
For all those supporting the silenced - my heart is weaving the intricate garments of hope, peace, love and equality that we were meant to be cloaked in.

"...our compassion is the practice of unconditioning." Jakusho Kwong Roshi

jadefrank's picture

unconditioned compassion

A beautiful poem... and a beautiful way to end the letter. Thank you.

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