Fighting the Anti-Gay Bill in Uganda

Imagine this. You wake up, get ready for work, and as you step outside, you get a call from a friend – she tells you that your picture is on the front page of the paper, with your name and home address. Next to your photo are those of 99 of your fellow citizens, along with the words “Hang Them.” On your commute to work, you wonder: Do these people recognize me? Are they going to try to hurt me? Will my neighbors turn on me when I get home tonight? In Uganda on October 9th, this is what happened to 100 gay men and women. At least four were attacked—one woman almost killed—and many went into hiding, fearing for their lives. It’s not the first time something like this has happened in Uganda—but we are fighting to make sure it doesn’t happen again. In Uganda, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people are being denied basic human rights. They are frequently threatened and physically attacked. And the government has largely been silent in the face of this increasingly hostile atmosphere. Last year, one political leader introduced a bill that, among other provisions, would sentence people to life in prison for engaging in consensual same-sex acts, and three years for not reporting to the police someone known to be gay. Since the bill’s introduction, attacks against sexual minorities have increased. Gay men and women are being evicted from their homes, fired from their jobs, and denied medical service. Lesbians are subjected to “correctional rape,” for which they are often unable to seek justice. In response, we partnered with leading activists in Uganda, arranging for them to meet with American lawmakers to persuade them to denounce the anti-gay legislation. We brought one activist to the Oval Office to meet with President Obama. And we’ve had success: President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and many other prominent US political, religious, and civic leaders have strongly and publicly condemned the bill. At Human Rights First, we believe that, when our leaders speak out and support human rights, the United States can be a powerful force for equality and justice in the world. And, in fact, the wave of public condemnation forced the bill’s supporters to move it onto the back burner. But some members of parliament in Uganda are threatening to reconsider the anti-gay bill before the end of this session of the parliament in May. Human rights activists and community leaders in Uganda need our help to make sure this doesn’t happen. Before the Ugandan parliament singles out an entire community for imprisonment or death simply because of who they are, help us do more to protect the rights of all individuals in Uganda. Make your tax-deductible year-end gift before December 31, and help Human Rights First fight discrimination in Uganda and around the world.

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Published on December 23, 2010

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