- The rising homophobia by Ugandan officials and the media against the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people is believed to be undermining the East African country's HIV prevention.
As such, Human Rights Watch has appealed to the United States government to condemn these threats, and clarify that it does not support using its HIV/AIDS funding to promote homophobia.
"When the US funds abstinence-only programs in Uganda, it tells people that LGBT people's sexualities are dangerous and must be denied," said Scott Long, HRW Director for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program.
"Supporting prejudice with cash is an approach with deadly consequences for all."
Ugandan gay and lesbian community is estimated at 500,000.
On August 16, a coalition of LGBT groups in Uganda convened a press conference to launch "Let Us Live in Peace" campaign, but this has led to a month-long backlash in the country, with one tabloid, Red Pepper publishing a list of first names, workplaces and other identifying information of 39 alleged homosexuals on 9 September. Headlined "Homo Terror," the paper's article promised to "name and shame top gays in the city."
Pastor Martin Ssempa, a prominent campaigner against both condom usage and homosexuality, had previously listed Ugandan LGBT rights activists by name on a website, posting pictures and contact information and calling them "homosexual promoters." Ssempa led hundreds of demonstrators on 21 August in Kampala, demanding the government to punish LGBT people, branding homosexual conduct "a criminal act against the laws of nature."
As a 2004 sub-partner of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Ssempa's Makerere Community Church received US funding. This $15 billion US programme earmarks one-third of spending on prevention of sexual transmission of HIV for "abstinence and fidelity programs," some of which are based on so-called abstinence-only curricula developed in the United States.
In its March 2005 report, the HRW documented how abstinence-only programs in Uganda suppress lifesaving information about condoms and safer sex, and convey that LGBT people's sexualities are immoral and that there is no "safer" way for them to have sex.
Ssempa was invited by the US Congress Committee on International Relations in 2005 to testify as an expert in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa.
"US politicians and pocketbooks underwrite hatred in Uganda," Long said. "The US has no business lending an aura of respectability to policies that undermine human rights and public health."
Right groups wondered why Ugandan officials continued to threaten new persecution of LGBT people, making reference to the 21 August radio news quoting the Deputy Attorney General, Fred Ruhindi, as calling for criminal prosecutions of lesbians and gays in the country.
Buturo told the Sunday Vision that they were "considering changing the laws so that promotion [of homosexual conduct] itself becomes a crime" and to have "catalogues of people we think are involved in perpetuating the vice of homosexuality." He added, "homosexuality is totally unhealthy." Ugandan law punishes homosexual conduct with imprisonment up to life.
The LGBT community said they have been censored by the government from speaking on their own behalf.
This was evidenced by the late August suspension of Gaetano Kaggwa, a presenter of Capital FM, by the Uganda Broadcasting Council (UBC) for interviewing a lesbian activist on air. The council alleged a violation of "minimum broadcasting standards" because the sexual-rights activist allegedly used "unacceptable language."
Also in October 2004, the UBC fined a radio station over US $1000 for hosting a lesbian and two gay men on a talk show, where they protested against discrimination and called for repeal of sodomy laws.
Red Pepper published a list of 45 alleged homosexuals in 2006, threatening the lives of men. Five years back, the paper ran a story and photographs of an alleged wedding between two women. The story prompted the women's arrest by Kampala police.
Although they were freed when an attorney intervened, they were jailed again and held for several days, allegedly for their own safety, after a mob threatened them. A Ugandan pastor who had counselled them was later forced to leave the country.
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