Kampala, Uganda. 18 January 2014
A delegation from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center) met with President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni today at State House in Entebbe, Uganda, to discuss the Anti-Homosexuality Bill passed by Uganda’s parliament on December 20, 2013. Last month Kerry Kennedy, President of the RFK Center, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote to the President to express their concern over the bill, requesting further discussion on the matter.
The delegation–comprised of Ms. Kennedy, Santiago A. Canton, Director of RFK Partners for Human Rights, and Wade McMullen, Staff Attorney for the RFK Center–expressed their grave concern over the legislation that would further criminalize homosexual conduct, censor freedom of expression, and ban civil society organizations working on LGBTI issues in Uganda. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who joined the conversation via telephone, similarly expressed his concern, stating that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was reminiscent of oppressive laws passed under apartheid in South Africa.
President Museveni pledged to reject the bill as currently drafted, calling the legislation “fascist.” The President stated that he will consult with his party and plans to introduce a new piece of legislation aimed at protecting minors from being coerced into sexual activity.
The RFK Center reiterated that the government should focus on enforcing the Ugandan Penal Code provisions that already outlaw both opposite-sex and same-sex sexual abuse of minors. Should new legislation be introduced along the lines of the President’s suggestion, the RFK Center strongly advised that any bill should only focus on strengthening current child protection measures, may not discriminate against individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and must fully respect the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association.
“I welcome President Museveni’s decision to reject this hateful bill,” said Archbishop Tutu. “It is time for our African brothers and sisters to move past the antiquated notion that someone could be a criminal for who they love.”
In a March 2013 meeting at the President’s personal residence in Rwakitura, President Museveni promised the RFK Center that he would not sign any bill that discriminates against any individual.
“I am pleased that President Museveni has upheld his promise to reject any piece of discriminatory legislation,” said Ms. Kennedy. “While we are concerned with plans to move forward with a new bill, we urge the President to ensure it will not discriminate against LGBTI people nor imperil the legitimate work of human rights defenders in the country.”