Sunday, May 30, 2010
Malawi gay couple freed after presidential pardon
In this photo taken Thursday May, 20, 2010 file photo,
Tiwonge Chimbalanga, foreground, and Steven Monjeza, left back, are led from
court in Blantyre, Malawi, after a judge sentenced the couple to the maximum 14
years in prison for unnatural acts and gross indecency under Malawi's anti-gay
legislation. Malawi's president says he has pardoned and ordered the release of
the two Saturday May 29, 2010. (AP Photo/Alex Ntonya, File)
A prison spokesman in Malawi says a gay couple pardoned by the president has
Evance Phiri said Sunday that Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza were
released late Saturday, hours after President Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned them
without condition. Mutharika stressed that homosexuality remains illegal in the
conservative southern African country.
It was not clear where the men went after their release. They were not at their
Blantyre home when an Associated Press reporter visited Sunday.
Malawi had faced international condemnation for the conviction and 14-year
sentence given to the two men, who were arrested in December, a day after
celebrating their engagement.
Malawi is among 37 African countries with anti-gay laws.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Dr Rwakimari promises to address Minorities concerns under HIV/AIDS bill she tabled this week
Hon Beatrice Rwakimari, the Ntungamo District Member of Parliament and Chairperson of the HIV/Aids Committee in Parliament has said all concerns of sexual Minority groups in Uganda regarding the HIV/AIDS control Bill 2010 she tabled mid this year in Parliament shall be addressed.
She said this in a meeting in Kampala with the Executive Director of UHSPA-Uganda, Mr. Kikonyogo Kivumbi.
Ms Rwakimari said she “understood" UHSPA's concerns of minority, LGBTI groups if the bill is passed in the current form and said a position paper by minority groups is welcome.
“This law is for all Ugandans. Minorities are Ugandans and we shall listen to them equally," She said.
Mr. Kivumbi told Rwakimari that LGBTI and sex workers are being targeted by the spirit behind the bill to control them. “Minorities need not be controlled. They are partners in the fight against the pandemic and should be part of the process," Kivumbi asserted.
He specifically raised a clause on the confidentiality of medical information captured within Uganda’s health infrastructure. “ The bill indicates that the right to confidentiality can be foregone, using another law,” Kivumbi told the legislator. He said that ‘ any other law’ can be the Equal Opportunities Act 2007 already passed by Parliament that is a subject of constitutional Court petition no.1 0f 2009. The law says minority groups complaints can not be entertained by the commission, which has tribunal powers.
Ms Rwakimari said her committee shall not lock any interested group in the bill outside to present their views and fears.
Uganda’s vulnerable groups
In the quest for better HIV/AIDS management in Uganda, a number of vulnerable and high risk groups were identified by the government, referred to as the Most At Risk Populations (MARPS). These include prison inmates and uniformed services, sex workers, fishing communities, internally displaced persons, people with disability, orphans and vulnerable children and mobile populations…... but exclusing LGBTI
The meeting at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala also touched on the specific mention of sex workers in the bill. Kivumbi told the MP that LGBTI community had alot to do in the fight against Aids,and asked her to introduce basic LGBTI needs on the national essential suppliers list. Men who have sex with Men account for about 6 to 10% of Global new infections according to UNAIDS, but few countries, including Uganda have deliberate programmes to address their needs to live a better healthy life.
Mr. Kivumbi told the legislator that preliminary observations by UHSPA indicate that some Ugandan MSM and lesbians do not believe they can contract HIV from same sex intercourse. The report due for presentation to the UN Human Rights Council indicates that some Ugandan gay men do not use condoms due to lack of information, specifically targeting the homosexuality groups. All Uganda’s senstisation messages target heterosexuals.
While, some bisexual men use condoms in heterosexual relationship, they pose a danger to their female sex partners of infection from HIV acquired in their same sex encounters, without protection. This puts Uganda, a global setter in HIV/AIDS management out of step with providing the much needed care and senstisation to its vulnerable groups. A UN General Assembly Special Session, Uganda Country Report 2010, commissioner by the Uganda Aids Commission indicates that Uganda has no interventions to reduce HIV transmission among LGBTI groups
This puts Uganda, a global setter in HIV/AIDS management out of step with providing the much needed care and senstisation to its vulnerable groups. A UN General Assembly Special Session, Uganda Country Report 2010, commissioner by the Uganda Aids Commission indicates that Uganda has no interventions to reduce HIV transmission among LGBTI groups
Friday, May 21, 2010
Anti-gay laws in Africa are product of American religious exports, say activists
After enduring decades of state torture and gross human rights abuse,minorities in Uganda are the next target
When he arrived at Kampala’s Hotel Triangle for a three-day conference, the Rev Kapya Kaoma knew that he would not like what he heard.
The clue was in the event’s title — “Exposing the truth behind homosexuality and the homosexual agenda” — and in the line-up of guest speakers arranged by Stephen Langa, head of the Ugandan-based Family Life Network (FLN), and an outspoken advocate for the criminalisation of homosexuality in Uganda.
Given top billing at the event hosted by the FLN was Scott Lively, president of Abiding Truth Ministries, an American conservative Christian group from California, and a Holocaust revisionist whose controversial book The Pink Swastika names homosexuals as “the true inventors of Nazism and the guiding force behind many Nazi atrocities.”
Weeks after the Kampala conference in March last year — which followed a meeting between the speakers and members of the Ugandan Parliament — a clause appeared in the country’s draft Anti-Homosexuality Bill recommending life imprisonment for certain homosexual “crimes” or, for “serial offenders”, the death sentence.
To Mr Kaoma, an Anglican priest from Zambia who is project director of Political Research Associates — a Massachusetts-based progressive think-tank — it was further evidence of how America’s Christian Right has stoked intolerance to homosexuality in Africa.
After a 16-month investigation, during which he interviewed scores of witnesses in Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria, Mr Kaoma concluded that Africa’s anti-gay crackdowns are, at least in part, “made in the USA”.
“Through their extensive communications networks in Africa, social welfare projects, Bible schools and educational materials, US religious conservatives warn of the dangers of homosexuals, and present themselves as the true representatives of US evangelicalism,” he wrote in Globalising the Culture Wars: US Conservatives, African Churches and Homophobia, a damning report on the issue.
He told The Times: “We are not dismissing the fact that some of the money they send for Africa is going to good use. What we are concerned about is that the people who receive it are being trained in a conservative ideology. It will be like, ‘If I give you this, you must dance to my tune’.”
The results are becoming clear. In Malawi, where this week an openly gay couple were sentenced to 14 years in prison with hard labour, and across the continent, gays and lesbians face lives of increasing dread. It is hard to underplay the depth of anti-gay sentiment expressed in Africa. “Everyone is looking over their shoulders,” said Mwangi, a gay man from Nairobi, who did not want his family name published. “People don’t even want to come to this bar now because they know it has a reputation as a meeting place for gays. Before, no one gave a damn. Everyone came here, prostitutes, straights, the lot,” he said.
It wasn’t always like this. A decade ago Uganda seemed at the forefront of a liberal renaissance sweeping Africa. Then, Angela, a Ugandan transvestite, led a dance troupe that regularly played to packed audiences. Now she fears for her life. “This is the worst it has ever been; they say we are evil and blame us for everything,” she said.
A large tear trickled down her cheek and splattered on the concrete floor of her modest home, its walls plastered with photographs of her in dancing costumes — souvenirs of happier days. “It is bad, my brother, it is bad,” she whispered. “They want to kill us.”
Fomenting this hatred are politicians. When President Mugabe of Zimbabwe famously proclaimed that “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Adam”, most people in Africa nodded in agreement — along with preachers like Mr Lively.“Homosexuality is ... equivalent to paedophilia, sadomasochism, bestiality and many other forms of deviant behaviour,” he told his audience in Kampala.
Referring to gay people as sinners who pose a “danger” to society and represent an “evil institution” hell-bent on seizing power, he added: “Nobody has been able to stop them so far. I’m hoping Uganda can.”
Mr Lively said he had subsequently sent a letter to the Ugandan MP promoting the proposed anti-homosexual legislation “saying that the death penalty is overly harsh”. But he added: “I think there’s far, far, far greater violence against Christians around the world today than there is against homosexuals, and for some reason that doesn’t make the news. Just the fact that someone is a victim of that kind of activity doesn’t validate what the victims do . ... [The] gay agenda is to re-create society on a different moral foundation that brings harm to everyone”.
Also on the speakers’ list at the conference were Don Schmierer of Exodus International — an organisation that argues that same-sex attraction can be “cured” — and Caleb Lee Brundidge, a counsellor who claims that he was healed of his homosexuality and promotes others to do the same through “healing seminars”.
Richard Cohen, founder of the International Healing Foundation — which seeks to help people with “unwanted same-sex attraction” through counselling — was behind the decision to despatch Mr Brundidge to the conference, but now he says that they were “blindsided”.
“The purpose of the conference, as we understood it, was to inform people about the causes and potential healing of unwanted same-sex attraction. We had absolutely no idea that the teachings at the conference would be misused to contribute in any way to the persecution and criminalisation of homosexuals ... If we had had any inkling of such an outcome, we never would have considered participating,” he wrote to President Museveni.
He added in an interview with The Times: “We found this Bill reprehensible. As we are both former homosexuals, under such a Bill, we could have been incarcerated for life ... It came out of left field, and [my reaction] was ‘What . . . ?’ ”
Ugandan human rights advocates say that, informed or not, the American evangelists who attended the conference took part in a dangerous process of human rights erosion.
“Just as the United States and other northern societies routinely dump our outlawed or expired chemicals, pharmaceuticals, machinery, and cultural detritus on African and other Third World countries, we now export a political discourse and public policies our own society has discarded as outdated and dangerous,” said Tarso Luis Ramos, executive director of Political Research Associates.
Mr Kaoma said: “It’s a political agenda being driven by so-called evangelism in the US and being pushed on to Africa.
“Unless the world moves fast, we should expect a lot of killings of gays, not by state sanction but through mob violence. This will continue unless the international community can start talking about gay and lesbians having human rights that need to be protected and defended.”
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
hiv/aids control bill 2009 press release
UGANDA HEALTH AND SCIENCE PRESS ASSOCIATION
For immediate release:
Contact person: Kikonyogo N. Kivumbi (English, Luganda, and Kiswahili)
Cell: +256 752 62 84 06 Email: email@example.com
HIV/AIDS Control Bill 2009 unfairly targets minorities
Kampala: May 19, 2010… Uganda Health and Science Press Association is concerned about the spirit and implications behind the HIV/AIDS Control Bill 2009 tabled this morning in the Parliament of Uganda.
Whereas it is true that Uganda needs a formal policy or legal mechanism to manage the pandemic, the spirit behind the “Control” bill is an attempt to target minority groups, including LGBTI, Commercial sex workers and People Living with HIV/AIDS as the problem fuelling the pandemic whose prevalence statistics are stagnated at 6.4% in the last few years.
Rather than seeking “to control”, Uganda should be looking at “Managing” the pandemic, in which the proposed law and policy framework should be looking at involving minorities and Peope Living with the virus as partners. This level of tolerance managed to bring the pandemic from over 30% in the 1980s to 6.4% to date. It is the only sure way forward.
We are specifically concerned with the bill’s targeting of the 20% of the Ugandan population who have chosen Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT), living positively, but are now likely targets of the bill; with criminalization of the spread of the virus. Such clauses shall promote fear and discrimination against Minority groups, and fuel the spread of HIV/AIDS. Besides, the bill does not address the needs of LGBTI as a community that needs attention in the fight against the pandemic, despite UNAIDS country advice that MSM are a Most At Risk Population that needs attention in Aids programmes.
This bill if passed shall drive people, especially minorities underground; in the face of possible prosecution and forced disclosure, most people will hide way There would be no reason to take tests in fear of prosecution. Besides, Uganda already has laws on the penal code that criminalizes sex work and LGBTI community.
The proposed bill requires mandatory disclosure of information about physical residence, work among others under the consent form, and there are no guarantees that information obtained through the health infrastructure shall not be used against minority groups for hate crimes and stigmatisation.
Kikonyogo Kivumbi- UHSPA
Notes for the Editor
Putting the HIV/AIDS Control Bill 2009 into policy perspective
• The Hiv/Aids Control Bill 2009 tabled today comes at a time of intense policy and legal proposals that undermine and seek to suffocate minorities in Uganda. This bill proposes setting up a health information infrastructure on HIV. However confidentiality remains a wanting matter in Uganda.
• This is given the fact that the Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009 before parliament requires doctors and health workers or people in positions of authority to report their clients “within 24 hours” of knowing their sexual orientation.
• This bill comes amid the operationalisation of the Equal Opportunities Commission Act 2007 that sets up the Equal Opportunities Commission with tribunal powers. This law passed in 2007 clearly states that it can not entertain complaints from minority groups. Hence the HIV/AIDS bill creates conditions that shall see LGBTI and other minorities being stigmatized and discriminated against in work places and communities, with no right to be heard before the commission.
• This bill comes as Uganda is working on final stages of the Health Sector Strategic Plan III, which seeks to draw a health seeking and availability infrastructure for all Ugandans irrespective of sexual orientation or other considerations. However, HSSPIII being developed by the Ministry of Health due for launch in October 2010 has failed to recognize the LGBTI community under its MARPS (Most At Risk Populations). Other Marps include IDPS,Prisoners
About UHSPA Uganda
Uganda Health and Science Press Association is a registered LGBTI network of groups and individuals that works to promote health rights of vulnerable and minority groups in Uganda. It brings together journalists ,lawyers,social scientists, minority groups, students and the academia to put an end to homophobia and Transphobia;streamline minority concerns in all Uganda's public health policies and laws .
Monday, May 17, 2010
Witch-hunting minorities: the skeletons behind Uganda’s new proposed HIV/AIDS Control Bill 2009
The law will drive people, especially minorities underground; in the face of possible prosecution and forced disclosure, most people will hide way,(shy away). There would be no reason to take tests in fear of prosecution. Besides, Uganda already has laws on the penal code that criminalizes sex work and LGBTI community.
By Kikonyogo N.Kivumbi
At about 6.7%prevalence rate of Hiv/aids in the general population( NAFOPHANU estimates), Uganda government is stuck with the statistics for some years now. In an effort to appease donors and electorate for the 2011 general presidential campaign in which the current President Yoweri Museveni is contesting the fourth term after 23 years in power, the blame for the stuck statistics has been delivered to the door step of minority groups in the country.
The thinking in the ruling party is that sex workers and LGBTI are the problem why the rates are not going down. Then another vulnerable target are the 20% of Ugandans who have taken voluntary counseling and testing to establish their status, being seen as another burden for the government. The Bill title tells it all “control” rather than “management.”
But the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Bill 2009 due for tabling soon before Ugandan parliament has hall marks of a desperate regime, out to witch hunt the minority. It is a calculated campaign to escape blame for the donor withdraw of funding for HIV/AIDS, care, management due to poor governance and corruption. A number of major donors are not committing new resources to finance Uganda’s Hiv Management.
If enacted, the proposed law would require mandatory disclosure of one’s HIV status failure of which would be regarded as ‘criminal’ and attempting to or, intentionally transmitting the virus. Failure to use a condom where one knows their HIV status would constitute a criminal offence making them liable for prosecution. UHSPA-Uganda and partner,NAFOPHANU are undertaking public senstisations on the implications of the proposed bill.
But given Uganda’s undoubted, collective contribution with other key stakeholders including local communities, legislators, local leaders, religious institutions, civil society, private sector and development partners, why would government or any progressive (patriotic) citizen consider this proposed law as an effective tool or rather, a considered way of responding to the epidemic?
It was a call for unity, concerted effort by all actors, openness in addressing the epidemic, clear and consistent messages, respected committed and visionary leadership by the President of Uganda that reduced incidence levels and won the country global recognition.
Disappointingly now, the Government, some Government leaders (I believe not all members of government support the bill) perhaps frustrated by stagnant prevalence rates. Yet, the only apparent outcome is that the once united actors and stakeholders are headed for a breakdown.
Instituting criminal laws to punish persons who may or may not transmit HIV virus poses a danger to the consolidated effort and lessons learnt over time. However considered Government has been, even after serious thought and analysis, it is difficult to identify any specific rationale that would mitigate the intended legislation.
In strategic terms, this bill would be counterproductive in slowing the epidemic, if at all. An effective national response is that which is designed to meet specific needs of the country, those that target particular situations that make people vulnerable to HIV and its impact and, use of particular strengths of the country’s people and institutions. An effective response must address the epidemic’s likely consequence on individuals, families and the society’s over all development plans.
The HIV Bill has fronted several fears as follows
1. The law will drive people, especially minorities underground; in the face of possible prosecution and forced disclosure, most people will hide way,(shy away). There would be no reason to take tests in fear of prosecution. Besides, Uganda already has laws on the penal code that criminalizes sex work and LGBTI community. The Equal Opportunities Act 2007 that sets up an equal opportunities commission is mandated by the same law not to entertain complaints from minorities, because their behavior is “morally not acceptable by the majority.” This bill also seeks the creation of an information hub, whose confidentiality is not guaranteed, and can cause LGBTIs problems and hate crimes if leaked.
2. It shall be counter-productive - as people shun HIV services and treatment for all possible fears that arise with the provisions of the law, prevention and control cannot be achieved. Taking a an HIV test is the beginning point for both control and prevention, however the Bill will deter this effort by empowering medical practitioners to release test results to third parties. Today only 20%of the Ugandan population have taken an HIV Test and know their sero status, if this Bill is passed into law this situation is likely to be aggravated leading to reduced uptake of HIV/AIDS services in the country. Therefore, Universal Access will remain a myth for Uganda
3. It will indiscriminately harass women – most women get to know their HIV status (tests) before their male counterparts as they interface with medical facilities more often. Giving them an extra burden to disclose their status mandatorily as a blanket requirement may subject them to violence, abandonment and abuse as they are usually blamed for bringing the virus. In our societies, women cannot negotiate condom use, yet failure to use one while they know their status will warrant such a woman punishment for intentional transmission of the HIV virus.
4. May breakdown families who are already vulnerable. Opening a window for prosecution will encourage family breakdowns where one partner who gets to know their status and blames it on the other and files a case in court. It may never get proved, but the family structure will have been distorted, partners desert each other with the consequent burden born by the poor orphans. HIV status is bad enough for the children but humiliating and sometimes vicious litigation between their parents would tear their lives apart.
5. Is not situation-specific or realistic: the conditions for this law to operate are not realistic, it is extremely difficult to prove who infected the other and therefore it is to no effect. The judiciary in this country is very much strained and it takes long to pass judgment. How many lives would be destroyed if it takes an average 5 to 7 years to get judgment? Worse, the police force is ineffective (not very effective) the language?? we need the police on our side and are known to fail to comprehend and prosecute cases of this nature.
6. Selective prosecution: The bill targets the 20% of Ugandans that have tested and know their status and presumes that some of those knowingly and intentionally transmit HIV. What about the rest of the population who do not know their status yet transmit and cannot be found in the ambit of this law? This is unfair, obnoxious and unreasonable and cannot possibly be regarded as an efficacious law.
7. Increased stigma and discrimination. The moment HIV is construed with criminalization and then people go into hiding, those living with HIV will suffer societal victimization since they would now be regarded as threats to public health. As a nation, we can still do better since on this one, we are all in it together. Successful public health interventions thrive on organized community efforts and willingness, other than the law which tends to negate community efforts
Support UHSPA-Uganda to further its advocacy campaign for the HIV/AIDS Control Bill not to victimize minorities. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Cabinet committee rejects Bahati Bill
(Monitor Story- www.monitor.co.ug)
A committee of Cabinet has made recommendations that could end Ndorwa West MP David Bahati’s ( pictured above) proposal to have a separate law punishing homosexuality in Uganda. The recommendations, which Saturday Monitor has seen, come close to dismissing Mr Bahati’s draft legislation.
The committee, put together to advise the government after Mr Bahati’s draft legislation left Uganda condemned by sections of the international community, looked deep into the language, tone and relevance of the draft legislation, dissecting every clause to determine its usefulness.
It was not clear who wrote the draft legislation, the committee’s report says, noting that the document had “technical defects in form and content”. The result left the draft legislation almost bare, as nearly all of the clauses were found either redundant, repetitive of existing laws, or even useless. In fact, the committee found that only “Clause 13” of the draft legislation, about the promotion of homosexuality, had some merit.
“This appears to be the core of the (draft legislation) and should be upheld due to the fact that there was massive recruitment to entice people into homosexuality going on, especially among the youth,” the report says. Seven ministers were originally named to the committee, but only three, as well as a representative of the Attorney General, attended the meeting that produced these recommendations.
Dr Nsaba Buturo, the junior ethics minister, who has spoken fiercely against homosexuality, never attended this meeting. He has since complained to Local Government Minister Adolf Mwesigye, who chaired the committee, that the report did not reflect his views.
In response, Mr Mwesigye has accused Dr Buturo of being absent without reason, according to documents obtained by Saturday Monitor. The review of Mr Bahati’s draft legislation, called the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, was started after President Museveni told members of the ruling National Resistance Movement that anti-gay efforts at home were disrupting Uganda’s foreign policy. Mr Museveni’s comments came in the wake of growing concern in some international circles that the draft legislation was draconian. At the time, Mr Museveni said he had received a lengthy phone call from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the matter. US President Barack Obama reportedly said the proposed law was “odious”, while Sweden threatened to cut aid to Uganda if the law was introduced.
Mr Bahati denied being in a hate campaign, but his critics said he lacked evidence to back claims that foreign gays were clandestinely recruiting young boys in Uganda. Ironically, while the committee accepted this as fact, they still found the tenets of his draft law weak. The offence of aggravated homosexuality, for example, needs to be “harmonised with the existing penalties in the existing laws,” the report says.
In his draft law, Mr Bahati proposed a new felony called aggravated homosexuality, the phrase he used to describe homosexual acts involving minors or the disabled, as well as in sex acts between homosexuals who are HIV-positive. He also proposed life imprisonment for consenting homosexuals. The Penal Code Act already criminalises homosexuality.
“The Anti-Homosexuality Bill should be reviewed since some provisions of the Constitution were not followed in the process of drafting and that, therefore, it was illegally before Parliament,” the report says, adding that “some sections of the Penal Code Act could be amended to include some good provisions” of the draft law. This kind of amendment, the committee’s report says, is the preferable option.
Mr Bahati was not immediately available for comment. The draft law is currently before Parliament’s Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. Kajara MP Stephen Tashobya, who chairs the committee, has not said when he is likely to start discussion on it.
It was hoped, at least according to Dr Buturo, that the Cabinet committee would make certain amendments to the draft law. As it turned out, the committee critiqued Mr Bahati’s work so deeply that no amendments were proposed. Mr Mwesigye said on Thursday that he had no comment to make. Cabinet is yet to discuss the committee’s recommendations.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Joyce Meyer opposes Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009
Against the bill: teleevangelist Joyce Meyer
The statement from the Ministries follows
From: Joyce Meyer Ministries
Date: Mon, Apr 12, 2010 at 3:03 PM
It is increasingly evident that the proposed “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” introduced in the Ugandan parliament is a profoundly offensive, dangerous and disturbing attack on the very foundation of individual liberties and human rights afforded not only to the good citizens of Uganda, but on the at-large global community.
If enacted, this hostile legislation will also further, and adversely, serve as a major setback in the global health efforts to combat Uganda’s AIDS epidemic and reduce the record-high infection rates among the country’s HIV population, an already at-risk community that could be further ostracized, threatened, and targeted as potential criminals.
Our missions and ministry message has always been to teach that the Word of God is about helping people – all people – learn that God loves them and has a purpose for their lives, not put guilt or condemnation on them.
As a global society, we do not have to agree, endorse or condone the lifestyle choices of others. However, history has taught us that we equally cannot and should not excuse those who would hide behind religion or misuse God’s word to justify bigotry and persecution.
With this statement, our motivation and intent is not to interfere with Uganda’s political agenda or internal affairs. As believers, however, we have a moral and ethical duty that compels us to speak out against injustice wherever it may be in the world.
Joyce Meyer Ministries
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