ADDIS ABABA: A group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists in Ethiopia are organizing themselves for what they hope will be action to show solidarity with the gay community in Uganda after their parliament promised to push through an anti-homosexuality bill to further criminalize the gay population.
“We will make certain that they know we are thinking about them and their struggle and make an effort to help however we can,” 24-year-old university student Amina told Bikyamasr.com on Saturday.
She and her fellow independent LGBT activists believe that what is happening in Uganda is a threat to all Africans’, gay or straight, and their freedoms.
“We know that this is the beginning of real attacks on all people and our freedom to live our lives as God created us,” said the lesbian activist.
They are not affiliated with any group, but still hope they can bring the community together in order to advance a better understanding of the LGBT community in Ethiopia, adding that there is too much antagonism between people over being gay.
“It really confuses me how angry people are when they learn I am a lesbian and have a girlfriend. It doesn’t make sense, but we have to help where we can to change people’s attitudes,” she added.
International human rights groups and leaders are calling for the immediate rejection of Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill, which has been described as a “Christmas gift” to the country by Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga said.
Kadaga also said the new legislation that outlaws homosexuality and criminalizes the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, “would pass by the year’s end.”
The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) said in a statement that it is “extremely concerned by the speeding up of the voting process” and has called on Uganda to end the crackdown on the LGBT community.
The bill is aimed at putting into the national penal code provisions that would continue to criminalize the “offense of homosexuality.”
It was first introduced before Ugandan Parliament in October 2009. At the time, strong mobilization of civil society organizations as well as international governments and institutions enabled to halt the debate and set the bill aside for more than two years.
However, in February this year, it was reintroduced before the Ugandan Parliament in its original version. “With Ms. Kadaga’s recent declarations, the threat of its quick adoption is weighing more than ever over all Ugandan lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people as well as on human rights organizations, and in particular those working for the protection of LGBTI persons’ rights,” FIDH said in their statement condemning the move.
“If adopted by the Ugandan Parliament, this bill will not only further entrench discrimination and inequality before law, but it will also be a sword of Damocles more dangling over all Ugandan LGBTI citizens’ head as well as over their relatives, friends and more generally those defending their rights. It has to be rejected unconditionally,” said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.
Desmond Tutu has also voiced concerns over the legislation, this week calling on the government to end its crackdown on human rights and dismiss the bill immediately.
FIDH has been strong in its continued attacks over the bill.
“Although lack of transparency surrounds the bill’s current content, information gathered by FIDH clearly suggest that no substantial changes have been made to the 2009 text. In the original version, the Bill contained a series of severe provisions.
The one which remains of utmost concern is that providing death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”, in case of “same sex sexual acts” with someone under 18 or with “a person with disability”, of repeated conviction, or if the “offender is a person living with HIV”. Besides, this bill is putting at high risk civil society activists as well as doctors working with LGBTI persons on HIV and in the field of sexual health, and even parents and teachers, as complicity with or failing to “report” those who are, or believed to be LGBTI are severely sanctioned. This Bill further shocks by its extraterritorial jurisdiction provision making any Ugandan citizen living abroad likely to be charged and extradited,” it said.
“This bill and the debate surrounding its reintroduction before Parliament are symptomatic of the more general hindrances to civil and political rights prevailing in Uganda. In a State of Law, authorities are expected to guarantee and protect the rights of citizens, not to persecute and discriminate them. If passed, this bill will seriously jeopardize fundamental freedoms and represent a setback for our country,” denounced Sidiki Kaba, FIDH Honorary President.