BY Kerry Eleveld

January 21 2010 5:50 PM ET

Therefore this bill does not only affect me
and my family just because I am a member of Uganda’s sexual minorities,
but it also affects me because I am a human rights activist and because
my citizenship rights are being threatened.

If passed, this bill
will further worsen the access of sexual minorities to health services.
The greatest scare for all sexual minorities in Uganda is how to
protect themselves from HIV infection and to access treatment for those
living with HIV. Sexual minorities in Uganda are already excluded from
mainstream HIV and AIDS interventions. We are not able to readily
access relevant health care and information. This bill makes this
exclusion worse by proposing the death penalty for HIV-positive
homosexual Ugandans. If it is passed, most homosexual Ugandans will not
be brave enough to seek the medical care that any human being needs and
deserves. This provision also leaves a lot of room for malicious
blackmail and venomous attacks, and it threatens to further prevent
homosexual Ugandans from voluntarily testing for HIV and accessing
preventive information and treatment.


In the face of such a
draconian bill, and at the risk of arrest and closure of the operations
of our nongovernmental organizations, we have joined hands with
several elements of Uganda’s civil society to form a coalition to
campaign against the monstrous anti–human rights and undemocratic
implications of this bill. To date, the coalition is made up of 26 indigenous organizations, consisting of women’s rights
organizations, children rights organizations, sexual minority groups,
legal practitioners, and organizations working in the field of HIV
prevention and treatment.


Our campaign has included bold media
statements against the bill and engagement of community, members of
parliament, and international partners on the outrageous implications
of this bill. The bill does not only affect homosexual Ugandans. It
affects all Ugandans, and all non-Ugandans living and working in
Uganda, who support or even accommodate the protection of sexual
minorities’ rights. We therefore believe that the character of our
country and of the rights afforded its citizens is at stake.


The
civil society coalition campaign has yielded some positive responses
thus far, and amendments to certain clauses of the bill are being
proposed by various local religious and political leaders. However, as
a coalition of Ugandan civil society and sexual minorities, we continue
to insist that the parliament and government of Uganda withdraws the
bill in its entirety. We make this demand because the bill is
unconstitutional and because it would show our country to be among the
most repressive and dangerous for people who belong to sexual
minorities.


Many countries around the world recognize sexual
minorities as an integral part of their diversity, entitled to all
human rights accorded to each citizen under their constitution. We
insist on the same for our country and for the sexual minorities for
whom Uganda is home.









Our rights as humans are universal. They
should not be circumscribed by where we were born. And they should not
be eroded by passage of this law, which in itself would be an abuse of
power.


Madame Chairperson, I thank you and your colleagues for your attention.



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