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About opression of homosexuals in Uganda


Artikel: Der ugandische Schwulenaktivist Eric Bwire in Nürnberg

Case Study of the Panel Codes of three East Africa countries- Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania

Criminal laws in all three countries, in “seeking to prevent harm in society,” do not capture or visualise LGBTIs. The term “Homosexuality” does not appear in the Penal Codes of Uganda, Tanzania or Kenya. Acts categorised as criminal are “unnatural offences” which are defined as having “carnal knowledge against the order of nature,” (CKATON). The range of sentencing varies from life imprisonment in Uganda, to 14 years in Kenya and 30 years in Tanzania.

Although “gross indecency” is criminal in the three countries, Kenya and Uganda do not define it and elements of indecency are consequently unclear. As standards of poof for criminal cases must be beyond reasonable doubt, the mere declaration that one is LGBTI is insufficient to sustain a conviction and, as such, one must be arrested in the act. Nonetheless, LGBTI persons are often unfairly targetted and experience all forms of police brutality.

For example, while they may not be “caught in the act”, LGBTI persons have been arrested and charged with “impersonation”, “disturbance of the peace” and all manner of things.

The CKATON and gross indecency provisions directly target same sex desire and love and transgendered people. Both these crimes are categorised as “offences against morality” in the Penal Codes, meaning that they are formulated to regulate public sexual morality. Sexual morality, on the other hand, is shaped to reflect the values of the dominant majority and reinforce patriarchy. For instance, with criminal adultery or prostitution, the sellers of sex are guilty of the crime but the buyers are not.

Current Situation

It is against the above background that in October last year, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 was tabled on the floor of parliament by Ndorwa West Member of Parliament, David Bahati. According to its principle, the “Bill seeks to establish a comprehensive consolidated legislation to protect the traditional family by prohibiting (i) any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex; and (ii) the promotion or recognition of such sexual relations in public institutions and other places thorough or with the support of any government entity in Uganda or any non-governmental organisation inside or outside the country.”

Since both the constitution and the Panel Code do not hold firm on the “crime”, this bill is initiated to be an independent legislation against Homosexuality.

Challenges Facing LGBTI In Uganda
- The challenge of invisibility
The unfriendly context for LGBTI organising has resulted in groups working in a clandestine manner. Mobilising for activism by LGBTI groups around sexual minorities’ rights is difficult due to LGBTI invisibility. The invisibility constrains growth of the movement as LGBTI groups remain informal with weak institutional structures that hinder their ability to network, collaborate and receive funding support.

- Locating Patriarchy within the LGBTI movement
It is important to be aware that, even within the LGBTI movement, patriarchy exists, resulting in situations where voices of lesbians are unheard and the movement is structured along male-dominated lines. Hence, there is a need to prioritise women’s support and promote women’s leadership in the movement.

- Rising homophobia and intolerance even in the mainstream human rights movement is of concern and has to be addressed if any progress is to be made in this area.

- Although lumped together as LGBTIs; it is also true that lesbians are often not aware of the lifestyle or issues of gay men and vice versa, while very little is known about transgendered people or their concerns. To build activism for the voice of LGBTIs, there is need to understand one another and be knowledgeable. This understanding forms the basis for solidarity.

Way Forward

The struggle for LGBTI rights require a multifaceted approach to raise visibility, enhance understanding and mobilise support for respect for LGBTIs. Such an approach could include law reform, test case, political engagement, policy proposals, public awareness and enhanced education on sexuality.

The human rights framework offers the best strategy although its success depends on the political will of states. The significance of this approach is that it moves the needs and concerns of LGBTIs to an assertive realm of rights which can be legislated, monitored and fostered.

It is important to position LGBTI rights within the framework of sexual rights and work with other marginalised groups such as women, people with disabilities and the elderly amongst others. Forming coalitions with people who face sexual oppression enables all those who are marginalised to speak with one voice and demand respect for their rights.

Designing Innovative Projects

Innovation refers to novelty or difference and innovative projects address issues creatively. LGBTI organisations should design unique initiatives that support activism for social change, particularly in promoting sexual minorities’ rights within the broader discourse of human rights.

There are some LGBTIs who consider the non-LGBTIs should not be working on LGBTI issues. Expanding the constituency of support is important for LGBTI activism. However; there is need for genuine allies to move the cause forward.

Convening dialogue around LGBTI issues is one opportunity to affirm human diversity (especially of women ) and facilitate spaces to advance (their) human rights.

Eric Bwire, member of the Caravan Nürnberg

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