African Voices for Equality: Fox Odoi
By Simone Salvo
Recently, Africa has become a hotbed for homophobic legislation, putting LGBT people and allies at great risk. But a growing number of prominent Africans are breathing fresh air into the debate that’s been stifled by personal judgments, narrow dogma, and hubris. Human Rights First’s factsheet, “African Voices for Equality,” highlights brave men and women who are taking a stand in countries where egregious intolerance and violence against LGBT people and allies persists.
West Budama North Member of Parliament and human rights lawyer Fox Odoi is one of the few public figures standing up for LGBT Ugandans in the face of the Anti-Homosexuality Act and showing how the law is detrimental to the guarantee of equality enshrined in Uganda’s 1995 Constitution. He says, “Our relationship in society is determined based on love for one another. So, if you cannot allow me to choose who I am to love, then you are denying me a fundamental right.” Odoi sends the important message that protecting the rights of individuals is critical to a unified and just society.
In an in-depth interview, Odoi defines human rights, refutes President Museveni’s rationale for signing the Anti-Homosexuality Act, and expounds on the petition he recently submitted to the constitutional court challenging the legality of the Anti-Homosexuality Act.
First, he points out that Parliament did not have sufficient quorum to deliberate and pass the legislation. He then cites the central constitutional articles flouted by the passage of the anti-gay law. He states that criminalizing consensual same-sex relations among adults “contravenes equal protection before the law and is discriminatory and as such in violation of Article 21.” Additionally, he says the law contravenes Articles 24 and 44 by promoting hatred and “subjecting homosexuals to torture, cruelty and degrading treatment.”
Odoi and the other members of The Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law are challenging the Anti-Homosexuality Act with the country’s own constitution in their arsenal. Odoi declares, “I will defend the rights of a homosexual just like I will defend the rights of heterosexuals. I do not think that I need to agree with you to defend your rights. That is unreasonable and selfish.”
In a climate of hostile popular opinion, Odoi insists “we need to continue engaging.” I could not agree more.