This House believes the government of Uganda has failed its citizens over LGBT rights

Uganda hit the international headlines in late 2013 and early 2014 due to controversy over an anti-gay law proposed by parliament and passed by the president.

The initial bill commonly known as “kill the gays bill” was proposed by MP David Bahati in 2009 and approved by parliament in December 2013 before being sent to the state house for final confirmation. Mr Bahati argued that he would fight to see the bill passed claiming that it was aimed at protecting children and conserving the country’s values; “Because we are a God-fearing nation, we value life in a holistic way. It is because of those values that members of Parliament passed this bill regardless of what the outside world thinks”[1] he noted after the parliamentary vote to support the bill.

Despite international pressure from various countries such as the USA and UK as well as from humanitarian organisations worldwide to stop the progress of the bill Uganda’s President passed it as law in February 2014. President Museveni proclaimed he did so to show that Uganda is an independent country which won’t create laws just to suit other countries agendas [2].

The Anti-Homosexuality Act metes out jail terms of up to life for "aggravated homosexuality" while "aiding and abetting homosexuality" is punishable by seven year prison sentences. It includes penalties for individuals, companies, media organisations, or non-governmental organisations that reach out to gay people or support LGBT rights. Individuals can be sentenced to seven years in jail. Organisations will be shut down.

The response from around the world has mostly been critical. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke against the law stressing that it violates basic human rights and endangers the LGBT community in Uganda[3]. South Africa’s Nobel peace prize winner Desmond Tutu argued that there is no scientific justification for prejudice and discrimination ever, and called on Museveni to strengthen Uganda's culture of human rights and justice[4]. President Obama in a written statement against the move noted; the new law “will be more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda. It will be a step backward for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on Uganda's commitment to protecting the human rights of its people”. It is therefore a question of concern, has the Ugandan government failed its citizens on LGBT rights?

[1] Hayes Brown, ‘Uganda Passes New Version Of ‘Kill The Gays’ Bill’, thinkprogress.org, 20 December 2013, http://thinkprogress.org/security/2013/12/20/3093931/uganda-passes-kill-gays-anti-homosexuality/#

[2] The new vision, ‘Museveni responds to Obama on anti-gay bill’, newvision.co.uk, 21 February 2014, http://www.newvision.co.ug/news/652797-museveni-responds-to-obama-on-anti-gay-bill.html

[3] UN news centre, ‘New anti-homosexuality law in Uganda violates basic human rights, stress UN officials’, un.org, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp/story.asp?NewsID=47212&Cr=lesbian&Cr1=#.UycsNoUfz4Y

[4] Antonia Molloy, ‘Desmond Tutu compares Uganda's anti-gay bill with Hitler's behaviour in Nazi Germany’, independent.co.uk, 23 February 2014, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/desmond-tutu-urges-ugandas-yoweri-museveni-not-to-sign-antihomosexuality-bill-9147562.html

Title 
Marginalising the minority
Point 

Human rights are fundamental and universal. They do not only apply to a certain group of people and invalid to another such as homosexuals. Criminalising homosexuality in Uganda considers all in the LGBT minority to be worse than second class citizens. Making them almost automatically criminal renders homosexuals sub human depriving them of their identity as Ugandans. The government has a responsibility to protect every citizen but in this case the Ugandan government has taken the first step in rejecting and mistreating its own people.

The new law infringes on fundamental rights to privacy, non-discrimination, equality and freedom from cruelty and inhumane treatment[1]. Even before the bill was introduced the government prevented there being room for LGBT activists to explain their cause showing their lack of freedom of expression. This and rights such as equality are universal and fundamental rights that the government of Uganda has on numerous occasions signed up for in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights among other documents.[2]

[1] Reuters, ‘Uganda's Anti-Gay Law Prompts Court Petition’, huffingtonpost.com, 11 March 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/11/uganda-gay-bill-petition-_n_4940664.html

[2] Organisation of Africa Unity, ‘African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights’, achpr.orghttp://www.achpr.org/instruments/achpr/#a2

Counterpoint 

Homosexuality has been illegal in Uganda since colonialism. It was signed into law and amended in Uganda’s constitution but did not change after independence. The blame should therefore go to the British not Ugandan government. If it is a violation of human rights then it is a violation that has been occurring for decades. The long term effect has been that Ugandans now are agreed that LGBT people are not a minority but criminals who deserve punishment.

Title 
Policy should not be dictated by religion
Point 

Article 7 of the Ugandan constitution is clear in its separation of church and state “Uganda shall not have a State religion.” The government must serve all its people equally regardless religious and cultural orientation. But this bill has been created with a religious motive. In his interview defending the anti-gay bill, MP David Bahati lamented, that God doesn’t accept homosexuality quoting a bible verse that the wages of sin is death[1]; as if the Ugandan parliament is filled with righteous souls! The constitution allows freedom of religion and prohibits the creation of political parties based on religion[2]. Laws and policies should therefore not base on bible verses as not everyone will share the same belief to such scriptures.

[1] Jack Mirkinson, ‘Rachel Maddow Interviews David Bahati, Author Of Ugandan 'Kill The Gays' Bill’, huffingtonpost.comhttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/09/rachel-maddow-bahati-uganda-gays_n_794271.html

[2] U.S. Department of State, ’Uganda’, state.gov, http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/171644.pdf

Counterpoint 

Although religions supported the anti-gay law, it is not solely a religious issue; the majority of Ugandans believe that homosexuality is contrary to their traditional values and all the anti-gay protests were inclusive regardless of religious denominations. It is therefore wrong to assert that the law was passed as a religious initiative. A separation of church and state does not mean the government should never run policies that the religious want simply that the government should not be favouring a particular religion. 

Title 
The law is contrary to the constitution
Point 

Chapter 4 of the Ugandan constitution recognises fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual as inherent and not granted by the State. The constitution states; All persons are equal before and under the law in all spheres of political, economic, social and cultural life and in every other respect and shall enjoy equal protection of the law; Without prejudice, a person shall not be discriminated against on the ground of sex, race, colour, ethnic origin, tribe, birth, creed or religion, or social or economic standing, political opinion or disability[1]. It defines “discriminate" as giving different treatment to different persons attributable only or mainly to their respective descriptions by sex, race, colour, ethnic origin, tribe, birth, creed or religion, or social or economic standing, political opinion or disability.

The government has acted contrary to their own law, with President Museveni remarking that what homosexuals do is disgusting, un African and had no place in his country[2] and MP David Bahati, asserting that homosexuals do not deserve to be treated as humans. Breaching such a law while relying on such logical fallacies is a sign of how the government failed on human rights.

[1] DREDF, ‘The Constitution Of Uganda; Chapter 4, human rights and freedoms’, dredf.org, http://www.dredf.org/international/UgaConst.html

[2] Mark Duell & Leon Watson, 'Gay people are unnatural and disgusting', says Ugandan president as he signs bill punishing homosexual sex with life in jail’, dailymail.co.uk, 24 February 2014, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2566425/Ugandas-president-sign-anti-gay-bill-Monday.html

Counterpoint 

In the same chapter, the constitution states that nothing within the article shall prevent Parliament from enacting laws that are necessary for implementing policies and programmes aimed at redressing social, economic or educational or other imbalance in society; or providing for any matter acceptable and demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society[1]. It is on this clause that most officials have based their support for the anti-gay law. The majority of Ugandans deem homosexuality immoral and unacceptable. There is therefore a democratic reason to enact such a law. The law is justified by democracy.

[1] DREDF, ‘The Constitution Of Uganda; Chapter 4, human rights and freedoms’, dredf.org, http://www.dredf.org/international/UgaConst.html

Title 
Rule of the majority
Point 

As a democratic country, Uganda favours and runs according to the will of the majority. This is also part of the constitution that recognises the opinion of the majority where all policies and rules that govern the country should base. With more than 90% of Ugandans against homosexuality and speaking in support of the anti-gay law[1], it was therefore inevitable for the government to pass such a bill despite president Museveni’s letter to parliament to ignore the law[2]. It is not the Ugandan government that has failed its LGBT citizens but the Ugandan people. A democratic government simply responds to what its people wants.

[1] Patience Akumu, ‘It pains me to live in a country, Uganda, that hates gay people and 'indecent' women’, thegurdian.com, 22 December 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/22/uganda-gay-laws-target-gays-women

[2] Warren Throckmorton, ‘Full Text of Letter From Uganda’s President Museveni to Speaker of Parliament Kadaga Regarding the Anti-Homosexuality Bill’, patheos.com, 17 January 2014, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2014/01/17/full-text-of-letter-from-ugandas-president-museveni-to-speaker-of-parliament-kadaga/

Counterpoint 

Democracy is not just about enabling a tyranny of the majority. It is about enabling everyone have a say in running the country and about protecting the rights of those minority viewpoints. Simply accepting that the majority is always right is the path to populist dictatorship; most people can be bought by promises of better times ahead and attempts to put the blame for any problems on minority groups. Human rights are intrinsic and cannot be determined on what the majority or civil society believes. The simple maxim ‘do unto others what you would have them do to you’ shows why minorities need to be protected. Everyone is a minority in something whether it is because they are a particular ethnic, sexual, language group or the views they hold we would not want to be discriminated on the basis of that aspect of ourselves. Where the majority wants to harm the minority the role of the government is to protect the minority. The bill was introduced to parliament individually by MP David Bahati[1] who spearheaded it through the end not the large Ugandan majority and the government should have stopped it.   

[1] The Economist, ‘Uganda’s anti-gay law; Deadly intolerance’, economist.com, 1 March 2014, http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21597943-diplomatic-pressure-did-not-stop-absurd-law-deadly-intolerance

Title 
Traditional and religious beliefs
Point 

More than 90% of Uganda’s population believe that homosexuality is not part of their culture and should never be accepted[1], its seen as  indecency, criminality and a taboo in the community. This is something the government did not invent and not something it can simply wash out of society. Shelving the bill would not suddenly create tolerance from Ugandan society towards the gay community but instead would isolate and impose a threat to the LGBT community.

Others would have tried to create laws anti-gay laws. This ‘kill the Gays bill’ was originally intended to include the death penalty for some homosexual acts such as when one of the participants is a minor, HIV-positive, disabled or a "serial offender".[2] The bill is therefore considerably better than what the alternative could have been – the government has done its duty and moderated it. Any wider change to the culture of the country is not the duty of the government.

[1] Patience Akumu, ‘It pains me to live in a country, Uganda, that hates gay people and 'indecent' women’, thegurdian.com, 22 December 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/22/uganda-gay-laws-target-gays-women

[2] BBC News, ‘Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill: MPs drop death penalty’, 23 November 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-20463887

Counterpoint 

The government is an impartial and independent body which should not be led by tradition but lead tradition instead. Governments don’t just exist to let events flow but to lead, to create policy, and shape events. If government never takes a lead then it would cease to exist as another leader would take its place. Under Uganda’s constitution, religions should be registered and accredited by the government and should adhere to law and government policies. The constitution recognises equality for all so the government should be encouraging a belief and tradition of such equality[1]. It is therefore wrong to argue that on a particular policy, tradition had to lead.

[1] Parliament of Uganda, ‘CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF UGANDA, 1995’, parliament.go.ug, http://www.parliament.go.ug/new/images/stories/constitution/Constitution_of_Uganda_1995.pdf

Title 
Not passing the bill would bring a threat to the public peace
Point 

Homophobia in Uganda was not introduced by this law. Refusing to sign the bill into law would result in increased brutality and cruelty to the LGBT minority from the majority of citizens who were angry that president Museveni even considered vetoing the bill. Shortly after the president’s letter to parliament requesting the shelving of the bill was revealed, thousands of Ugandans took on to the streets protesting against the move complaining that homosexuality will never be allowed in their society. Known gay Ugandans were forced not to move while others were attacked in their homes. Long before the bill was passed by parliament, homosexuals and LGBT activists were beaten, harassed and killed by their fellow Ugandans. David Kato a leading figure in demanding equal rights for the gay minority was killed in January 2011[1]. The situation may have worsened had the bill been shelved as angry Ugandans would attack the gay community seeking revenge, something that they made clear would happen during the anti-gay protests. Most Ugandans had supported a death penalty for homosexuals and clearly have few qualms about launching attacks, sometimes murderous against homosexuals.

[1] BBC News, ‘Obituary: Uganda gay activist David Kato’, bbc.co.uk, 27 January 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12299786

Counterpoint 

The fact that Ugandan government did not take measures to curb insecurities, harassment and threats towards the LGBT community, shows how reluctant it was in enforcing human rights. Unfortunately things have been even worse after the new law was passed with Uganda’s tabloid the Redpepper exposing homosexuals[1]. The new law has given a green light to mockery, attacks and harassment towards the gay community, many have lost their jobs, other have quit school and some have left the country due to such threats. This all could have been avoided by the government if it were to accept LGBT as a minority that has the same rights as other minorities. Such an acceptance would be a first step towards tolerance in Uganda.

[1] The guardian, ‘Ugandan tabloid prints list of 'top 200 homosexuals', thegurdian.com, 25 February 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/25/ugandan-tabloid-prints-list-top-200-homosexuals

Bibliography 

Akumu, Patience, ‘It pains me to live in a country, Uganda, that hates gay people and 'indecent' women’, theguardian.com, 22 December 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/22/uganda-gay-laws-target-gays-women

Associated Press, ‘Ugandan tabloid prints list of 'top 200 homosexuals', thegurdian.com, 25 February 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/25/ugandan-tabloid-prints-list-top-200-homosexuals

BBC News, ‘Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill: MPs drop death penalty’, 23 November 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-20463887

BBC News, ‘Obituary: Uganda gay activist David Kato’, bbc.co.uk, 27 January 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12299786

Brown, Hayes, ‘Uganda Passes New Version Of ‘Kill The Gays’ Bill’, thinkprogress.org, 20 December 2013, http://thinkprogress.org/security/2013/12/20/3093931/uganda-passes-kill-gays-anti-homosexuality/#

DREDF, ‘The Constitution Of Uganda; Chapter 4, human rights and freedoms’, dredf.org, http://www.dredf.org/international/UgaConst.html

Duell, Mark, & Watson, Leon, 'Gay people are unnatural and disgusting', says Ugandan president as he signs bill punishing homosexual sex with life in jail’, dailymail.co.uk, 24 February 2014, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2566425/Ugandas-president-sign-anti-gay-bill-Monday.html

The Economist, ‘Uganda’s anti-gay law; Deadly intolerance’, economist.com, 1 March 2014, http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21597943-diplomatic-pressure-did-not-stop-absurd-law-deadly-intolerance

Molloy, Antonia, ‘Desmond Tutu compares Uganda's anti-gay bill with Hitler's behaviour in Nazi Germany’, independent.co.uk, 23 February 2014, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/desmond-tutu-urges-ugandas-yoweri-museveni-not-to-sign-antihomosexuality-bill-9147562.html

Museveni, Yoweri Kaguta, ‘Statement Responding to H.E. Obama’s statement on Homosexuality’, newvision, http://www.newvision.co.ug/news/652797-museveni-responds-to-obama-on-anti-gay-bill.html

Parliament of Uganda, ‘CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF UGANDA, 1995’, parliament.go.ug, http://www.parliament.go.ug/new/images/stories/constitution/Constitution_of_Uganda_1995.pdf

Reuters, ‘Uganda's Anti-Gay Law Prompts Court Petition’, huffingtonpost.com, 11 March 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/11/uganda-gay-bill-petition-_n_4940664.html

Throckmorton, Warren, ‘Uganda Watch: David Bahati Vows to Press Ahead with His Anti-Gay Bill’, patheos.com, 26 March 2013, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2013/03/26/uganda-watch-david-bahati-vows-to-press-ahead-with-his-anti-gay-bill/

UN news centre, ‘New anti-homosexuality law in Uganda violates basic human rights, stress UN officials’, un.org, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp/story.asp?NewsID=47212&Cr=lesbian&Cr1=#.UycsNoUfz4Y

U.S. Department of State, ’Uganda’, state.gov, http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/171644.pdf

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