Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Joint Statement at the Human Rights Council

Dear Readers,

See below a statement delivered at the UN Human Rights Council in interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights. There were representatives from 97 groups from 50 countries. Special thanks to John Fisher from ARC International.

To see the webcast of the statement as delivered, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/ycb3wcma

UN Human Rights Council, 13th session
Item 2: Interactive Dialogue with High Commissioner
Joint statement by:
International Lesbian and Gay Association (European Region), Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Akina Mama wa Afrika, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Associação Brasileira de Gays, Lésbicas e Transgêneros (ABGLT), Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), Center for Women’s Global Leadership, COC Nederland, Frontline, International Alliance of Women, International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), LBL Denmark, Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany (LSVD), Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL), Unitarian Universalist Association, World Organisation against Torture (OMCT)*


Thank you Mr. President,

Madam High Commissioner, we recently had the privilege of communicating to you a letter in support of your inclusion of issues of sexual orientation and gender identity in your SMP, outlined in your Annual Report, and would like to take the opportunity of reaffirming that support in this more public setting.

I now have the honour to take the floor on behalf of 97 NGOs*, including 16 with ECOSOC accreditation. We represent human rights defenders from 50 countries in every region of the globe. While we share a commitment to equality and non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, we come from diverse cultures and backgrounds, and work on a broad range of issues, including the human rights of women, migrants, HIV/AIDS issues, education, health, poverty, democratic governance, and more.

We join together across our diverse regions and experiences to thank you for your commitment to promoting and protecting the human rights of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

We appreciate your recent public statements expressing deep concerns about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda and the recent arrests in Malawi following a same-sex relationship celebration.

We also wish to express our appreciation and strong support for the explicit identification of human rights issues relating to sexual orientation in the thematic priorities of your Office, and would encourage you to also address gender identity/expression within these priorities.

These issues are of crucial and urgent human rights concern. As you will be aware, in too many countries, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people continue to face criminal sanctions, killings, violence or torture because of how we live or who we love. Lesbians are subject to so-called“curative”rape, intersex people are subject to medical abuses, transgender persons demeaned and beaten, their rights and identities unrecognised. We are denied health care or needed treatment; we routinely face discrimination in work, housing and education. In many countries, our work as human rights defenders is opposed, obstructed or banned. Our rights to peacefully gather are often denied, while attempts are made to silence our voices. Too often, the violence and abuse we endure in countries around the world goes unreported, uninvestigated and unpunished.

The opposition by some States to even recognising these as human rights violations itself highlights how important it is that violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity be explicitly addressed as thematic priorities by your Office. Inclusion of these grounds needs to be explicit, since otherwise the very States responsible for human rights violations would “interpret down” international human rights law to leave LGBTI people unprotected.

Madam High Commissioner, we know that you will face opposition from some States because of your leadership on these issues – as do all of us who work in this area. We encourage you to stay strong in the face of opposition, and know that LGBTI people around the globe look to you for leadership, take courage from your strength, and are inspired by your resolve. We commit our support to you and your Office in your work to face the challenges and ensure protection of the human rights of all people, without discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Endorsed by:

Akina Mama wa Afrika (Uganda)
ALITT (Argentina)
Alternatives-Cameroun (Cameroon)
ARC International (Canada/Switzerland)
ARCUS Foundation (USA)
Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM) (Thailand/India)
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) (Thailand)
Asociación Líderes en Acción (Colombia)
Associação Brasileira de Gays, Lésbicas e Transgêneros (ABGLT) (Brazil)
Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) (Canada/South Africa/Mexico)
Bandhu Social Welfare Society (Bangladesh)
Blue Diamond Society (Nepal)
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (Canada)
CEDEP (Malawi)
Center for Women’s Global Leadership
Coalition of African Lesbians (South Africa)
COC Nederland (Netherlands)
Colectivo Ovejas Negras (Uruguay)
Committee for Lesbigay Rights in Burma (CLRB) (Myanmar/Burma)
Common Language (China)
Council for Global Equality (USA)
CREA (India)
Davida (Brasil)
Egale Canada (St. Lucia/Canada)
Engender (South Africa)
Euroregional Center for Public Initiative (Romania)
Fellowship of Reconciliation (USA)
Freedom and Roam Uganda (Uganda)
Frontline (Ireland)
FtM Phoenix Group (Russia)
Gay and Lesbian Activist Network for Gender Equality (GALANG) Inc. (Philippines)
GAYa NUSANTARA (Indonesia)
GayJapanNews (Japan)
Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe)
Gender DynamiX (South Africa)
Global Advocates for Trans Equality (GATE) (USA)
Global Alliance for LGBT Education (GALE) (Netherlands)
Global Justice Ministry, Metropolitan Community Churches (USA)
Global Rights (USA)
Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights (USA)
Helem (Lebanon)
Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB) (Myanmar/Burma)
Human Rights Watch (USA)
Humure (Burundi)
IGLHRC-LAC (Argentina/Paraguay)
ILGA (Mexico/Belgium)
Increse Nigeria (Nigeria)
INFORM human rights documentation centre (Sri Lanka)
Integrity Uganda (Uganda)
International Alliance of Women (Switzerland/International)
International Centre for Advocacy on Rights to Health (ICARH) (Nigeria)
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) (Switzerland)
International Day against Homophobia (France)
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (USA)
International Lesbian and Gay Association (European Region) (Belgium)
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
Intersex South Africa (South Africa)
L’Association pour la Defense de L’Homsexualite (ADEFHO) (Cameroon)
Labrys (Kyrgyzstan)
Lambda Mozambique (Mozambique)
LBL Denmark (Denmark)
Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany (LSVD) (Germany)
Lesbian Group Kontra (Croatia)
Lesbian Organisation of Switzerland (Switzerland)
Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) (Malta)
Mama Cash (Netherlands)
Movimiento Antidiscriminatorio de Liberación (Argentina)
Mulabi (Argentina)
National MSM and HIV Policy Advocacy and Human Rights Task Force (India)
Norwegian organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights (Norway)
Open Society Institute (USA)
Organización de Transexuales por la Dignidad de la Diversidad (OTD) (Chile)
OUT LGBT Well-being (South Africa)
Pacific Sexual Diversity Network (Tonga)
Philippine Forum on Sports, Culture, Sexuality and Human Rights (TEAM PILIPINAS) (Philippines)
Prostitutes Interest-organisation in Norway (PION) (Norway)
Protection International (Nepal/Brussels)
Red Lésbica Cattrachas (Honduras)
Right Society (Russia)
Runa Institute (Peru)
Secret De SDHH (Argentina)
Sexual Minorities Against AIDS in Nigeria (SMAAN) (Nigeria)
Skeivt Forum (Norway)
Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) (Guyana)
Solidarity and Action Against The HIV Infection in India (SAATHII) (India)
Spectrum Uganda Initiatives (Uganda)
Supporting Our Youth (Canada)
Suriname Men United (Suriname)
Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) (Sweden)
TARSHI (India)
TransColumbia (Colombia)
Transgender Network Netherlands (Netherlands)
UHAI: East African Sexual Health and Rights Initiative (Kenya)
Unitarian Universalist Association (USA)
Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) (Philippines)
World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) (Switzerland)
Youth Coalition for Sexual Reproductive Rights (Canada)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pride+Love in Uganda 07: Statement from Edoboozi Human Rights Defenders

(Voice of the Voiceless)
Kampala, Uganda
22 February 2010

1)  There is concentrated effort by some sections of the population, government, religious organizations to further criminalize, penalize and persecute LGBTI people for what they are.

2)  There is evidence of increased homophobic environment, arrests, harassment, loss of jobs, loss of places of abode, displacement within the country, and many seeking asylum beyond the Uganda borders, black mail, and extortion is on the increase.

3)  Medical facilities that cater to HIV/AIDs treatment which has been difficult and not easy to acquire may be very difficult if the bill passes.  Dissemination of HIV/AIDs information and acquisition of direct services of consumables e.g. condoms and lubricants will be impossible to get under the proposed law. This means that the gay community will suffer more and the AIDS/HIV prevalence rate will rise affecting the entire population in general.

4)  There is deliberate peddling of lies in the anti-homosexuality campaign to the effect of::

  • Homosexuality is un-African/ not Ugandan culture.
  • It is being fueled by western world by use of money
  • It is against the teaching of the bible and those who practice it are rebelling against God.
  • Homosexuality threatens the existence of the African family values.

All of the above is not true and has constantly been thrown around to cause panic and drum up homophobia.

5)  There are increased calls by extremist organizations to harm/kill LGBTI people in Uganda and it passes without strong government condemnation. It is appalling that the head of the Tabliq sect from the Muslim religion has announced and recently reaffirmed the formation of killing squad. This man is known as M. Bukenya Sheik. He is also outing with names and addresses LGBT people.

6)  The continued media outing of LGBTI people in Uganda is a matter that is intended to cause harm to individual activists and should be strongly condemned. Case in point is Red Pepper tabloid/publication has been outing and condemning and is of much concern to many human rights defenders. Individuals have gone through hardship each time they are portrayed negatively in that paper.

We call upon the international LGBT and diplomatic community to pressurize and go into dialogue with the Ugandan government through diplomacy to respect human rights and protect its LGBT citizens. We call for the complete withdrawal of the Anti-Homosexuality bill and decriminalization and protection of the LGBT community.

Edoboozi Human Rights Defenders Network

Samuel Kizza Ganafa
Abdallah .J. Wambere
Moses Mulindwa
Stosh Jovan Mugisha
Thomas Mukasa

Friday, February 26, 2010

Pride+Love in Uganda 06: What is our obligation to LGBT Ugandans?

Like the Jews, the LGBT community in Uganda is a global minority, a family, a tribe. When one part of the community is under threat of state and extra-judicial violence as we witnessed here in Uganda, the global LGBT community is called to act. What we do should be directed by the Ugandan LGBT community, but all the LGBT citizens of Uganda we saw, in the hundreds, asked for international support.

In proposing to imprison LGBTs, their friends, families, doctors, and teachers, the UN Member State of Uganda threatens to be in violation of multiple treaties. If the anti-homosexuality bill should pass, all treaties and UN instruments related to sexual violence, violence against minorities, human rights, human rights defenders and others will be violated by this bill. Under "The Responsibility to Protect," the Member State of Uganda will be in violation. Under RTP, a Member State is bound by the UN to protect vulnerable populations, not to rid themselves of a minority.

I witnessed so-called pastor Martin Ssempa's rhetoric first hand. It is a xenophobic hatred mirrored only by the likes of Hitler in calling for the extermination of the gays. It was chilling and terrifying. Though he is said to be a consummate showman, the crowd he inflames is extremely impoverished and disenfranchised. Should the bill pass, crowds will hunt and kill LGBT people on the streets of Kampala. This is stated by the dozens of LGBT people we have spoken to here in Kampala, the media, and even US Embassy personnel who have no plan in place to help the LGBT community.

I witnessed Ssempa and a dozen pastors place their hands on the head of David Bahati, the MP who introduced the bill. I watched as they "consecrated" him to "rid Uganda of homosexuals." Calling feverishly for Jesus to save the world from homosexuality, Ssempa projected bizarre pornographic images on a screen in the church. He described and demonstrated the pictured SM acts in great detail before an audience of several hundred, causing women to fall off their chairs weeping and clawing the air, with children sitting stone-like in their chairs. His demonstration depicted the eating of feces, penises, bondage and fisting. Children in the church were forced to watch as Ssempa demonstrated the acts with his hands and mouth.

Ssempa is a permanent resident of the United States of America. He worked directly for "Pastor" Rick Warren for years, perhaps planning his anti-gay crusade. He is said by LGBT Ugandans to have had, "another life in the USA"--you guess.

I don’t know whether Martin Ssempa is pure evil or just sick or trying to shove his rage down the throat of the west at the expense of the people. At times he makes reference to colonialism and donor interference, all from the pulpit of a perverted Christianity - the ultimate western import. He is wily and strategic. I had more than one extremely "civil" telephone conversation with him and he acknowledged and pinned an anti-sodomy pin on me during his service--more like circus.

At one point during the crusade event he was laid out on the stage pounding his feet screaming for Jesus to, "save us from the homosexuals." He looked like a toddler having a tantrum except that he held a huge phallic-like horn, which he occasionally trumpeted. What is most frightening is that he is often on the nationwide radio inciting hatred and violence against gays. Is this not a crime?

Ssempa has poisoned the hearts of Ugandans toward their LGBT community. It was bad before, but now it is criminal and genocidal. He pronounces warped statistics about gays being pedophiles, terrifying parents that their children at boarding schools will be attacked and converted by gays. His network of support reaches far into the parliament. A representative at the US Embassy here claims that 75% of the parliament will vote for the bill. We have heard as much as 90%.

In the crusade, there were posters of Rick Warren labeling him a betrayer. In discussions with the LGBT community, the names of Americans Scott Lively, Caleb Brundidge and Don Schmeirer came up. During an interview with a trans activist here, I asked what he would like to see happen to change the current situation. Not missing a beat he said, "I would like Scott Lively to come back to Uganda to apologize. It is right that he should return here and recant about what he has done." Scott Lively lives in Springfield, Mass. He was one of the masterminds of the current anti-homosexual emergency and an initial drafter of the bill. I hope we can plan an action to visit him and convey the content of this request.

LGBT Ugandans are strong, smart, and strategic, but they are exhausted and have few resources. When asked what we can do to support them from the US, one man, John Wambere, an LGBT human rights defender said, "Literacy, you can send us computers and help LGBT people learn to write so they can get jobs." Literacy is at 65% here in Uganda, and lower in the LGBT community as people are often harassed and bullied out of school for being gay. They also need legal support and assistance. If the bill passes, some in the LGBT community plan to sue the government. There is also the possibility of prosecuting Ssempa for inciting genocide, through international channels.

I asked LGBT activists if in the event of a pogrom they have a plan. Currently, there are few safe houses and LGBT change addresses, are on the run, and are constantly changing their phone numbers. They simply do not have the funds to go on this way. If the bill stays tabled--or even if it is debated in the near future--LGBTs will continue to have an ax hanging over their heads.

The Rev. Patricia Ackerman
LGBT/SOGI Human Rights Program Officer
Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pride+Love in Uganda 05: Press Coverage Roundup

Check back here often to view more press coverage on the conference.

"Uganda's Gays Fight Back Against Crackdown," The Huffington Post. February 26, 2010.

"Ugandan president feels the heat," Bay Area Reporter. February 25, 2010.

"Ugandan UUs oppose anti-homosexuality bill," UU World. February 22, 2010.

"Ugandan BGLT Rights Advocates Organize at Valentine's Day Conference," UUA News. February 18, 2010

"Standing on the Side of Love in Uganda," The Bilerico Project. February 15, 2010

"Gay Ugandans gather to pray, plan," Xtra.ca. February 15, 2010.

"Tulsa minister speaks for gay rights," Tusla World. February 16, 2010.

"Police halts anti-gay demo as pro-gay activists secretly meet in Kampala," Daily Monitor. February 15, 2010.

"Uganda police stop anti-gay demonstration," Africk.com. February 16, 2010.

Original UUA press release: http://www.uua.org/news/newssubmissions/158042.shtml

For more press info, email geronimo[at]uu-uno[dot]org.

Pride+Love in Uganda 04: Epiphany 2010

An Open Letter and Invitation to American evangelicals and “ex-gay” activists who promoted anti-gay attitudes in Uganda as reported in the NY Times, January 4, 2010

Caleb Lee Brundidge, CSRC
International Healing Foundation
P.O. Box 901, Bowie, MD 20718

Don Schmierer
His Servants
PO Box 765
Lockeford, CA  95237

Scott Lively
Abiding Truth Ministries
455 State St
Springfield, MA 01105

Dear Brothers,

The Ugandan “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” reported on extensively in the New York Times on January 4th, 2010 is extremely troubling. As you know, your anti-gay rhetoric helped influence the brutal “death to gays” legislation, despite attempts to distance yourself from the controversy. Many people are pointing to your teachings about gay people as motivation for the brutal “kill the gays” legislation. In an NPR interview you said you wanted the bill to be “softened,” but you must do more.

It is time for you you to acknowledge that your words contribute to the hostile climate in Uganda that puts the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, their friends and families, in grave danger and violates their human rights.

Brothers, please stop targeting gay people. Proclaim to the world that the deliberate rejection and harming of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is wrong. LGBT people should not be rejected by their families, beaten, imprisoned or killed in the name of Christianity - or in your name.

This letter is is an invitation to sit with us in prayer and dialogue. We invite you and your parishes from around the country to take part in town meetings with LGBT Christian communities. Town meetings have historically been sanctuaries for a public faith-based reconciliation process to take begin.

If you have truly disavowed the “death to gays” legislation and embraced an inspired call for respect of the gay community without reservation, we ask you to talk with us. LGBT people live and work in all walks of life. They live upright honest, respectful, and peaceful lives. Many are committed Christians. Come, sit with us and begin a conversation that is more than tolerance, and celebrates all God’s people.

There are still those who preach violence and fear, but you have promised to no longer be among them. Like the co-signers below, there are those who preach courage, compassion and charity. These are people of faith who have always stood on the side of love, justice and compassion. Come stand with us.

We, the undersigned people of faith, will do what we can to halt the violence caused by others. We will continue to care for the gay community who has done nothing wrong - they are as God wants them to be.

Please join with us in our call for acceptance, love and understanding. We look forward to speaking with you soon.


Rev. Patricia Ackerman
Mr. Geronimo Desumala III
Mr. Bruce F. Knotts
Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office

The Rev. Pat Bumgardner
Global Justice Ministry of Metropolitan Community Churches

John Clinton Bradley, Acting Executive Director
Integrity USA

The Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, Moderator
Metropolitan Community Churches

Emily Eastwood, Executive Director
Ross Murray, Associate Director
Phil Soucy, Director of Communications
Lutherans Concerned/North America

Meagan Manas, Communications Director
Presbyterians Welcome

Carol Wise, Executive Director
Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests

Kathy Church, Moderator
UCC Coalition for L/G/B/T Concerns

Rob Williams, Co-President
Room for All
Reformed Church in America

Gregg Drinkwater, Executive Director
Jewish Mosaic: The National Center for Sexual ad Gender Identity

Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, Faith Work Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Troy Plummer, Executive Director
Reconciling Ministries Network (United Methodists)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Pride+Love in Uganda 03:LGBT Valentine's Day Conference Report

“This was different from other conferences… gay banners and flags… no pretense, it was very straight forward.”
-A conference attendee
"Our conference showed that religion does not need to be an enemy to the cause of LGBT concerns. LGBT people have a strong sense of religion and God and values. What is at stake here in Uganda is religious freedom, human rights and minority protections. We pray that the international community will continue to stand with us.”
-Rev. Mark Kiyimba
More than 200 LGBT Ugandans (including many young adults) gathered in Kampala to strategize and organize a response to the anti-homosexuality bill that is about to voted on by the Ugandan parliament

Risking arrest and certain imprisonment these courageous activists convened by Ugandan Unitarian Universalist minister Mark Kiyimba, Spectrum Uganda and other grassroots LGBT community organizations engaged in hours of discussions what one organizer described as a “Pride Parade in a closet.” Although the subject matter was deadly serious.

The conference attendees called for complete decriminalization of homosexuality, full access to services, human rights and protection by the state. Sessions included talks by religious and human rights activists. The keynote speaker was Anglican Bishop and Integrity Uganda president Christopher Ssenyojo, a champion ally of LGBT rights spoke on the theme of Love and justice. Bishop Christopher, was formerly exiled from Uganda and continues to offer Christian sanctuary to the LGBT community at great risk.

Immediately following the conference, the Ugandan Daily Monitior newspaper reported that police are currently seeking to find and arrest the organizers of the conference.

At the meeting there was a strong sense from the grassroots of feeling supported and given a voice in the midst of persecution. The conference culminated in a petition for equality which is to be presented to the speaker of the house or a local member of parliament. The conference has promised to bring legal action against the state if the bill is passed. Organizers stated that a procession had been planned to deliver the petition on foot, but as one organizer put it: “If we walk through the streets we will surely be stoned.”

According to Pastor Kiyimba, whose church members include many LGBT persons, “I cannot stand by and watch as my community is exterminated. My church will become illegal and cease to exist if this bill becomes law”

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Pride+Love in Uganda 02

Rev. Mark took us to meet LGBT leaders today, along with a fantastic ally religious leader who is truly a pastor to the LGBT spiritual community. We are preparing for the conference tomorrow which will address LGBT human rights, health, full equality, HIV. We have been asked to speak to the fact that there is a progressive spiritual community that loves and supports gay people. The LGBT group we met sees that the bill was inflamed and instigated by right wing American hatemongers who did not expect it to get so out of control. The LGBT community is courageous, open, strategic. They need out support. Please be ready to give. Hold them in prayer tomorrow. I will blog after the conference.