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WASHINGTON, January 21 – The Ugandan Anti Homosexuality Bill (2009) undermines very basic human rights, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of Congress heard this afternoon.
Julius Kaggwa of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, who had flown-in from Uganda for today’s hearing, said that his group had been approached by many in his country who had received death threat.
And there was total silence in the hearing room at the US Congress when he told law-makers that he was himself a “personal victim” to both verbal and physical assault as were gays who often suffered daily.
“Our rights as human are universal,” he told the hearing, adding that the character of Uganda and the rights of its citizens were at stake.
Mr Kaggwa pointed out that sexual minorities in Uganda were already excluded in HIV programmes – and the Bill makes the situation unimaginably worse.
“All in Uganda are affected,” he said.
Mr Kaggwa added that the Bill was not just a foreign policy issue. “It’s national issue affecting all Ugandans.”
Cary Alan Johnson, executive director if the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, to the hearing that the lack of unequivocal condemnation by the Ugandan Government had already caused grave damage.
The United States must maintain the pressure on Uganda, he insisted.
Deputy Assistant Secretary Karl Wycoff, who was representing the U.S. Department of State, told the hearing that the Bill not only constitutes serious threats to human rights in Uganda and the internationall reputation of country, but also compromises Aids work.
Rev. Kapya Kaoma, a Zambian Anglican priest was is currently project director at the progressive Boston ‘think tank’ Political Research Associates, said that Ugandans were fighting for their rights – and needed the support of the United States.
He reminded the Commission member of the deep US conservative evangelical influcene and support for the Bill.
Rev. Kaoma pointed out that since the anti gay seminar in Uganda last March, at which three American evangelicals, including Scott Lively, attendend, 14 known cases of arrest had occurred, including one death, on grounds of suspected homosexuality
Christine Lubinski of the HIV Medicine Association at the Infectious Diseases Society of America said that 1500 doctors were outraged by Bill and its threat to combat HIV.
“Silence equals death,” she said. “We have a responsibility to ensure billions of USPEPFAR money is reaching those in need.
Representative Tammy Baldwin, who chaired the hearing (see video below of her remarks at the hearing), said that through their involvement in the Bill religious leaders were attempting to restrict human rights and that the Bill would put USPEPFAR in serious jeopardy.
“No modification of the Bill would make it palatable to those committed to social justice,” Ms Lubinski insisted.
And she went on to say that Uganda already had regressive laws affecting the LGBT community in the country.
Representative James McGovern said that the Bill, which would seriously limit HIV work, turns people into “sex spies”.
And he had a warning to the Ugandan authorities: “US Congress stands behind Mr. Kaggwa”. He added that he would be “watching for his security very closely”.
■ This report was compiled courtesy of Jirair Ratevosian, Deputy Director, Public Policy at The Foundation for AIDS Research, who was “tweeting” from the hearing.
For full report, see DC Agenda: U.S. Commission Considers Ways to Stop Anti-Gay Uganda Bill. By Chris Johnson (January 23, 2010).
Rep Tammy Baldwin's opening remarks to the hearing
Top State Department Official to Give Evidence to US Congressional Hearing on Ugandan ‘Gay Hate’ Bill. A top official from the State Department is due to give evidence at the US Congress Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing on Uganda on Thursday. (UK Gay News, January 19, 2010)
US Congressional Hearing on Ugandan ‘Kill Gays’ Bill Set for Next Week. By Andy Harley in Washington. Tammy Baldwin hits out at American Evangelicals said to be behind Ugandan Bill. (UK Gay News, January 13, 2010)