PRESS STATEMENT                                  

CALLING UPON GOVERNMENT TO RESPECT, PROTECT AND PROMOTE THE RIGHTS OF MARGINALISED AND CRIMINALISED COMMUNITIES

Commemoration of International Human Rights Day 2019

10th December 2019

 

As we celebrate the 71st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) calls upon the government of Uganda to take positive steps to protect the rights of persons who are marginalized and criminalised.

This year’s theme is ‘Stand up for human rights’ and it calls upon every person everywhere to stand up for the protection of human rights. Among groups that require protection are marginalized communities- among which are: injecting drug users, sex workers, and sexual minorities.

Already marginalised by cultural and religious beliefs, these groups are also criminalised under the law. Various sections of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 2017 criminalise possession of drugs for individual use; Section 139 of the Penal Code criminalises sex work, while section 145 criminalises ‘carnal knowledge against the order of nature.’ Rather than putting a stop to the actions of these groups, criminalisation simply pushes them underground and renders them ‘invisible.’ This breeds all sorts of human rights violations against such groups as they will not be able to report such violations for fear of being arrested, and the police will also not investigate such violations due to the feeling that these are groups not protected by the law and by the human rights regime. In the past six months alone, there have been police swoops targeting drug users, sex workers and sexual minorities which have resulted into hundreds of arrests, without any evidence that a crime has been committed. Such arrests almost always do not end in convictions, showing that they are meant for persecution rather than prosecution. Two murders of sexual minorities by private individuals have been documented in the past six months and little has been done by authorities to bring the culprits to book.

In addition to the arrests, in the past five years, it has become routine to close down meetings organised by groups working on issues of sexual minorities. This has even received the approval of the High Court which justified such closures on the basis that Ugandan law criminalises ‘carnal knowledge against the order of nature.’ A case appealing that decision, Civil Appeal No. 195 of 2014 has been pending in the Court of Appeal since 2014. The High Court in 2018 also upheld a decision by the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) to refuse to register an organisation working on the rights of sexual minorities basing on the law criminalising ‘carnal knowledge against the order of nature.’

HRAPF wishes to remind the state of its obligations to ‘respect, fulfil and protect’ human rights which are provided for under the Constitution of Uganda and under the different international human rights instruments that Uganda is party to. All persons regardless of who they are, are entitled to equal protection of the law, and moral considerations may not be given undue weight beyond what is ‘acceptable and demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society.’ The Constitutional Court in the case of Adrian Jjuuko v Attorney General, Constitutional Petition No. 1 of 2009 (decided 2016) observed that:

In a society governed by the rule of law, and according to human rights principles, steps to protect the public from potential future harm - no matter how potentially serious it may be - should always take place within a framework which also protects the human rights of the individual whom it is feared may be capable of doing such harm.

Protection of the rights of minority and criminalised groups should not be limited to only marginalised and criminalised persons, but should be the responsibility of all persons, as dehumanisation of one dehumanises all of us. On this International Human Rights Day, let us all stand up for the human rights of all persons, particularly those that are marginalised and criminalised.

 

Taking human rights to all

 

                                                              

 

              

                                  PRESS STATEMENT                                  

 

CALLING UPON GOVERNMENT TO ADDRESS SOCIO-LEGAL BARRIERS TO ACCESS TO HIV/AIDS SERVICES FOR MARGINALISED COMMUNITIES

Commemoration of World AIDS Day 2019

“Communities Make the Difference”

As we commemorate World AIDS Day, let us heed this year’s theme, “Communities Make the Difference.” The spirit of this theme, as highlighted by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), is the appreciation of the advocacy efforts that are employed by the different actors in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic, including communities that are living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, as well as those that are most at risk of contracting it. Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) thus calls upon the Government of Uganda to take cognisance of such efforts, and to create a conducive socio-legal environment for their sustainability.

In Uganda, one of the groups that are most at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS are Key Populations. Their vulnerability arises from the fact that they are criminalised, and such criminalisation buttresses the social stigma and discrimination that they face. The negative implications of criminalisation of key populations stretch as far as infringement on their right to freedom of association, expression and assembly, which are essential for effective advocacy interventions in the fight against HIV/AIDS. This has been evidenced by the continuous closure of events aimed at addressing barriers to access to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services for Key Populations. Among these are: the 2016 ‘Pride Week’ pageant, the 2017 ‘Pride Week’ celebrations, the 2017 ‘Queer Film’ festival; the 2018 and 2019 International Day Against Homophobia, Bi-phobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) celebrations, the 2018 Key Populations Conference, as well as the 2018 National HIV Prevention Symposium. According to the annual reports published by HRAPF on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, such actions have had a trickle-down effect, wherein various organisations advocating for the rights of key populations have been subjected to unwarranted attacks by both state agents and private individuals. Recent examples of such violence are the police raids on three organisations working with Key Populations, mass arrests of persons, and in two incidents, murder of persons who are part of Key Population groups.

Legal interventions such as Civil Appeal No.195 of 2014 that seek to address these human rights violations have also stalled due to court delays. This has undermined advocacy efforts by Key Populations communities in Uganda to combat HIV/AIDS, which is a major setback in countrywide efforts to fight the epidemic.

We therefore implore government to take positive steps towards addressing such structural barriers to ending HIV/AIDS by ending marginalization and combatting stigma against these groups.

Taking human rights to all

 

 

 

                                                            

                                

 

 

PRESS STATEMENT IN COMMEMORATION OF INTERNATIONAL INTERSEX AWARENESS DAY

 26TH OCTOBER 2019      

‘Undertaking Evidence Based Interventions for Inclusion’

26th of October 2019 marks the beginning of a two-week awareness campaign on the rights of intersex persons worldwide. As Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), we commemorate this day by calling upon key stakeholders, and the public at large, to accord due attention to the existence and rights of intersex persons in Uganda.

Intersex persons are those with atypical reproductive and sexual systems. What this means is that their sex characterization cannot be typified as either ‘male’ or ‘female,’ in accordance with the gender definition and standards of society, which renders them vulnerable.

HRAPF, in commemoration of International Intersex Awareness Day, has released a study conducted in collaboration with Support Initiative for People with congenital Disorders (SIPD) titled ‘Impact of the Legal and Policy Framework on the Rights of Intersex Persons in Uganda’. The report shows that intersex persons face violations of their human rights in various spheres of life; with the rights of intersex children being violated the most. Right from birth, intersex children often face severe rejection from their parents, families and the broader community. The right to education is a key concern for children as many suffer ridicule and bullying that leads them to drop out of school. The unregulated medical practices relating to intersex children, as well as the gender binaries of male/female, which exclude intersex persons, makes them susceptible to inhuman and degrading treatment.

With the exception of the Registration of Persons Act 2015, the legal and policy framework in Uganda offers minimal protection for intersex persons, which makes them more vulnerable to human rights violations. It does not categorically protect them from violence; neither does it guide the government ministries, departments and agencies on how to address the existing structural barriers to the realisation of the rights of intersex persons. The deficiency in Uganda’s legal and policy framework with regard to intersex persons can be attributed to the fact that the law and policy-makers are neither aware of the size of the intersex population, nor of the most pressing challenges that they face in everyday life.

We appreciate efforts of Ministry of Health in that the Technical Working Group on Maternal and Child Health has commissioned an expert team of paediatricians, surgeons and members of civil society to develop a policy guideline on treating intersex patients. The expert team was tasked to develop a document, which will be able to guide clinicians in the classification of intersex conditions and also to put a referral system for intersex patients in place. The eventual adoption of such a policy guideline would facilitate awareness raising, which would also address and combat stigma.

We call upon the government of Uganda to continue to take progressive steps towards the protection of intersex persons.

Taking Human Rights to All

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28th September 2019

Abortion is Health Care

 

Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum, (HRAPF) joins the world in commemorating the International Day of Action on Access to Safe Abortion Services.

This year’s theme, ‘Abortion is Health Care,’ highlights access to safe abortion services as an integral aspect of the right to health. It is therefore imperative for the different key stakeholders within Uganda to reflect on the implications of limited access to safe legal abortion services on the sexual reproductive health and rights of women.

 

As of 2013, the incidence of unsafe abortion in Uganda is at 314, 304 per year, accounting for 10% of the maternal mortality rate in the country. This is amidst a legal framework that permits access to safe legal abortion services within the limited parameters of saving the life of the mother, and where it is done using surgical means. Efforts to establish a more accommodative legal and policy framework that clearly defines the exceptional circumstances in which abortion is permitted have met strong religious opposition. This leaves women and girls who are faced with unwanted pregnancies without the option of legally making a choice as to whether or not to carry such pregnancies to term, which compels them to resort to terminating them in clandestine and unsafe conditions. According to a study conducted by HRAPF in 2016, on the ‘Implications of the Enforcement of Criminal Abortion Laws on the Rights of Women and Health Workers in Uganda, ‘ the restrictive legal framework on abortion, coupled with the existing social stigma around the abortion question, also hinders qualified health service providers from availing safe abortion services. This on the whole is, in light of Uganda’s national, regional and international human rights obligations, a violation of women’s sexual reproductive health rights, as it robs of them of the right to freely make personal reproductive choices, and ultimately endangers their lives.

 

In light of Uganda’s core human rights obligations, as well as the commitments she made to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the Action Plan of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), we call upon the government to take positive steps towards reducing maternal mortality and morbidity arising from unsafe abortion, by making abortion services safer and more accessible, through legal and policy reform; as well public sensitization on abortion as a health right.

 

Taking Human Rights to All

The High Court of Botswana, on Tuesday 11th June 2019, issued a unanimous judgment in which it declared sections of Botswana’s Penal Code criminalising same-sex sexual conduct unconstitutional on the basis that these provisions violated the rights to equality, dignity, liberty and privacy of LGBT persons. Sections 164(a), 164(c) and 165, similarly to section 145 of Uganda’s Penal Code Act, create the offence of ‘having carnal knowledge against the order of nature’ which is punishable with imprisonment for 7 years.  

The Court questioned the purpose of a law criminalising consensual and private expressions of love and expressed that such provisions are an over-regulation amounting to the infringement of fundamental human rights. The Court also expressed that such a criminalisation of love ‘dilutes compassion and tolerance’.

This decision comes as a welcome beacon of hope for LGBT activists in sub-Saharan Africa, following the disappointing May 2019 judgment in the High Court of Kenya, which upheld the same-sex prohibition in Kenya’s Penal Code, despite the glaring constitutional invalidity of the provision. Decriminalisation of same-sex sexual conduct is an essential step toward equality and the fulfilment of fundamental rights of LGBT persons. It is a step which ought to be taken in all African countries boasting constitutional protections of human rights of all.