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Home News UN rights body urges Uganda leader to shun anti-gay bill

UN rights body urges Uganda leader to shun anti-gay bill

Published on 27/12/2013

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Friday called on Uganda's president not to sign a harsh anti-gay draft law that sailed through parliament last week.

“If the bill becomes law, it would impose sentences of life imprisonment for consensual, same-sex relationships as well as prison sentences on those who ‘promote’ homosexuality,” Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, warned.

“This law would have a detrimental effect not only on the fundamental rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) members of Ugandan society but also on the work of human rights defenders and efforts to address HIV/AIDS in the country,” she added in a statement.

Uganda’s parliament adopted the bill on December 20. It will see repeat offenders jailed for life, sparking an international outcry as lawmakers hailed it as a victory against “evil”.

Deputies voted overwhelmingly in favour of the text, which has been widely condemned by rights activists and world leaders — with US President Barack Obama describing it as “odious” and Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu comparing it to apartheid.

The lawmaker behind the bill, David Bahati, said a death penalty clause was dropped from the final version. The approved text must now be given the green light by President Yoweri Museveni, a devout evangelical Christian.

Shamdasani said that if Museveni signed the law, it “would reinforce stigma and prejudice, and institutionalise discrimination”.

The bill was a “clear violation of the rights to liberty, privacy, non-discrimination and freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association protected by the Constitution of Uganda” and international rights treaties, she said.

“The government has a legal obligation to prevent discrimination and cannot withhold basic rights from certain individuals because the majority disapproves of them,” she said.

She called on Museveni “to protect human rights and to refrain from signing this bill into law”.

Uganda, a British colony until 1962, “should also repeal colonial-era anachronistic provisions of the Penal Code that criminalise consensual same-sex relationships.”

The United States has voiced concern over the draconian bill and British tycoon Richard Branson has urged companies to boycott Uganda over the measure.