Sunday, December 13, 2009

London Uganda demo - Photos and report

Protesters urge: "Drop the Anti-Homosexuality Bill"

London - 10 December 2009

Nearly 100 protesters rallied outside the Ugandan Embassy in London on Human Rights Day to support the Ugandan LBGTI community. They called on the Ugandan government to drop its draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which is currently being debated by the Ugandan parliament.

Under this proposed law, LGBTI Ugandans will face execution for certain homosexual

acts and life imprisonment for all other same-sex acts - even mere caressing and kissing.

The London protesters included LGBTI activists from the UK and of Jamican descent, plus LGBTI campaigners from Uganda, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Cameroon, Nigeria, the Congo and Kenya.

See photos of the protest here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/outrage/sets/72157622975859486/

These photos are free to use. Please credit Brett Lock of OutRage!

The keynote speakers were gay Ugandan John Bosco and straight Ugandan human rights activist, Michael Senyonjo.

John Bosco was recently jailed in Uganda, after he was illegally and forcibly returned to Uganda by the British Home office while seeking asylum in the UK.

He condemned the Anti-Homosexuality Bill as "an attack on the civil liberties of all Ugandans," denouncing it as "dividing Ugandans against each other and requiring people to report on their own family members who are gay."

Michael Senyonjo told the crowd:

"In the last five years we have seen Idi Amin return to Uganda and his name is (President) Yoweri Museveni. We cannot allow fascism to return to Uganda. He should leave power and go because he is not taking the country anywhere but to disaster," he said.

Peter Tatchell of the London LGBTI rights group OutRage! echoed this view:

"President Museveni is fast becoming the Robert Mugabe of Uganda and that's a threat to the civil rights of every Ugandan person - gay or straight....There's a huge ground swell of public opinion that this bill goes way too far. Even people who say they're against homosexuality say this bill is excessive and a threat to the human rights of all Ugandans.

The Ugandan government should drop this law and abide by international human rights legislation.

"The Anti-Homosexuality Bill violates the equality and non-discrimination clauses of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We are merely asking Uganda to uphold international human rights law.

"This homophobic legislation undermines the right to privacy and individual liberty and thereby sets a dangerous legal precedent which threatens the human rights of all Ugandans. It is part of a wider drift towards an authoritarian state," Mr Tatchell said.

The protest MC was Dennis Hambridge, global coordinator of the Gay Activists Alliance International (GAAI). He said the protest was about sending a message to the Uganda government - that the world is watching and that human rights supporters deplore this repressive bill.

Nigerian gay activists Godwyns Onwuchekwa, Rev Rowland Jide Macaulay and Bisi Alimi declared that gay rights are human rights and expressed pan-African solidarity with Ugandan LGBTI people.

Other speakers condemned the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, including Skye Chirape (a Zimbabwean lesbian activist), Topher Campbell (a Black British gay man of Jamaican descent, who is a lead member of the black arts collective, the Rukus Foundation) and Josh Kutchinsky (a spokesperson for the British Humanist Association).

The London protest was coordinated by the Gay Activists Alliance International, with the support of OutRage! and Ugandan LGBTI exiles (most of whom were too afraid to be photographed or identified in case there are reprisals against their families in Uganda).

Other supporting organisations included Changing Attitudes, Rainbow Church, Queer Youth North, British Humanist Association, Rukus Foundation and the National Union of Students LGBT section.

See full details of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill here:

http://www.ukgaynews.org.uk/Archive/09/Nov/Bill-No-18-Anti-Homosexuality-Bill-2009_Uganda.pdf

 "The new Anti-Homosexuality Bill, if passed, proposes the death penalty for 'aggravated' and 'serial' homosexual acts and extends the existing penalty of life imprisonment for anal sex to all other same-sex behaviour, including the mere touching of another person with the intent to have gay relations. Life imprisonment is also the penalty for contracting a same-sex mariage," said Peter Tatchell of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights group OutRage!.

"Membership of LGBT organisations and funding for them, advocacy of LGBT human rights and the provision of condoms or safer sex advice to LGBT people will result in a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of seven years for "promoting" homosexuality. A person in authority who fails to report violators to the police within 24 hours will incur three years behind bars.

"Astonishingly, the new legislation has an extra-territorial jusridiction. It will also apply to Ugandans who commit these 'crimes' while living abroad, in countries where such behaviour is not a criminal offence. Violators overseas will be subjected to extradition, trial and punishment in Uganda," added Mr Tatchell.

According to Dennis Hambridge of GAAI:

"The bill is likely to be detrimental to the fight against HIV/AIDS by denying gay and bisexual men access to condoms and safer sex advice and driving countless numbers of them further underground. It will create even more stigma, discrimination and oppression

"Activists in Uganda have reported to GAAI that there are eight gay people currently awaiting trial or sentencing in Uganda.

 "With immense pressure being put on the Ugandan Government to drop the bill, by human rights groups, governments and religious groups worldwide, we call on people in the UK to protest," he said. 

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been condemned by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists and the World AIDS Campaign.

It violates the Commonwealth principles of human rights and human dignity. You can email the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, here:

secretary-general@commonwealth.int

If you were not able to attend Thursday's protest, please lobby your MP and MEP. Ask them to write to the Ugandan High Commissioner, Joan Rwabyomere, urging that the legislation is dropped. You can email your MP and MEP here:

www.writetothem.com

You can also email the Ugandan High Commissioner, Joan Rwabyomere, yourself:

info@ugandahighcommission.co.uk

Thank you.

All power to Ugandan LGBTI people! For a free, democratic, secular and humanitarian Uganda!


 

Written by Peter Tatchell of OutRage Group.

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