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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.

 

 

PRESS STATEMENT ON INTERNATIONAL DAY AGAINST HOMOPHOBIA, BIPHOBIA, INTERPHOBIA AND TRANSPHOBIA (IDAHOBIT)

KAMPALA

17TH MAY 2019

‘HRAPF calls on African leaders to take a stand for the justice and protection of all’

 

Today, Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum joins the rest of the world in celebrating the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). This Day is dedicated to raising awareness of the repression, discrimination and violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex persons around the globe. Awareness raising and sensitisation are crucial strategies to combat the fear which fuels hatred against the LGBTI minority.

The theme of IDAHOBIT for 2019 is ‘Justice and Protection for all’. LGBTI persons the world over, as well as in Africa and Uganda, face discrimination within the criminal justice system. In many African countries, same-sex sexual relations are still criminalised. LGBTI persons are also vulnerable to arrest under broad vagrancy provisions such as those criminalising ‘being idle and disorderly’ and ‘being a rogue and vagabond’. LGBTI persons also face challenges in accessing justice when their rights are violated – the courts and police are not always viewed as ‘protectors’ as they should be for the public at large. HRAPF’s legal aid clinic receives cases of human rights violations on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics on a regular basis, and continues to fight for LGBT persons in Uganda to access justice and to be protected.

On this occasion of IDAHOBIT 2019, HRAPF condemns the way in which African leaders in recent months have used their influence in international and regional bodies to promote homophobia, biphobia, interphobia and transphobia.

In October 2018, Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, led a move to ban debate on the subject of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender persons within the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Geneva. The very purpose of the Inter-Parliamentary Union is to work for peace and cooperation among people, and to contribute to the defence and promotion of human rights. Nevertheless, 689 of the 1188 MPs representing nations across the globe in that forum voted in favour of the ban – which muzzled the mere discussion of LGBTI rights and sends the message that LGBTI persons are not considered ‘humans’ whose human rights are to be protected by the legislators of all the nations of the world. HRAPF is disappointed that a Ugandan leader instigated this damaging decision within an international human rights body.

HRAPF furthermore condemns the decision of the African Union’s Executive Council, which is made up of mostly the Foreign Ministers of all Member States, for their decision to exert pressure on the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to revoke the Observer Status of the Coalition for African Lesbians (CAL), which it granted in 2015. The Executive Council, to which the African Commission reports, expressed that the Commission ought to take into account ‘the fundamental African values, identities and good tradition,’ and on this account continued to pressurise the Commission until it withdrew CAL’s Observer Status in 2018.

HRAPF calls upon the leaders of African nations to take a stand against homophobia, biphobia, interphobia and transphobia, which terrorise LGBTI persons within their countries, and to ensure justice and protection for all.

Taking human rights to all

Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), Plot 390 Prof. Apolo Nsibambi Road, Namirembe, Kampala. P. O. Box 25603, Kampala, Tel: +256-414-530683/+256-312-530683, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Website: www.hrapf.org

 

On 23rd January 2019, the Parliament of Angola adopted a new Penal Code, outlawing the criminalisation of consensual same sex sexual conduct. The ‘vices against nature’ provision which is an equivalent of section 145 of Uganda’s Penal Code Act has been on Angola’s law books since it gained independence  from Portugal in 1975. This legislative decision has been accompanied by the initiative of making discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation a crime that is punishable up to 2 years’ imprisonment. It was welcomed by Iris, the only LGBT rights group in Angola, which cited it as instrumental in advancing rights of LGBT persons in the country. The decriminalisation of same sex relations by Angola’s parliament is in spite of the rising tide of the bold expression of anti-gay sentiments by African legislators, which was evident at the 139th assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, where the LGBT agenda was banned from discussion, in a move that was led by Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga. It also comes in the run up to court rulings in Kenya and Botswana on the decriminalisation of consensual same sex relations.

 

The Human Rights Advocate magazine is a legislative review and advocacy tool in favour of marginalised groups. Each issue contains deliberations from a variety of authors on a particular enactment or proposed enactment, which affects marginalised groups, all focusing on a common theme.

The third issue of the Human Rights Advocate focuses on the new Non-Governmental Organisations Act, 2016 and the impact of this Act on marginalised groups in Uganda. The Act came into force on 14 March 2016.

Although the Act was well intentioned in its objectives and some of its provisions, it has human rights implications at two interlinked levels. Firstly, the Act presents obstacles in the way of NGOs operations in Uganda in general and closes the space for civic participation in governance. At the second level, the NGO Act poses threats to the exercise of the right to freedom of association for marginalised groups in particular.

This third edition of the magazine contains an editorial, feature, two opinion pieces, two commentaries on the Act and two commentaries on case law. It also contains a case update on the case of Frank Mugisha, Dennis Wamala & Warry Ssenfuka v Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), which challenges a decision by the URSB to refuse to register the name Sexual Minorities Uganda, and consequently incorporate the organisation because its objective of protecting for the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) persons was viewed as contrary to the laws of Uganda.

The editorial considers the NGO Act, 2016 and the two levels of threats that it poses from a human rights perspective. The feature considers the legislative history of the NGO Act and describes the contents of the NGO Act. The first commentary considers the NGO Act from an international human rights law perspective while the second commentary compares the regime governing NGOs in Uganda to that of Kenya. The first opinion piece argues that the NGO Act forms part of a broad series of ‘legalised repression’ of political rights and freedoms. The second opinion piece considers the impact of this law on the human development of the country through its repression of the associative rights of minorities. The first case commentary considers the impact of the recent Constitutional Court decision in the matter of HURINET and Others v Attorney General in which provisions of the previous NGO Act and Regulations were upheld on the new regulatory framework of NGOs. The second case commentary discusses the High Court case, which has been filed subsequent to the Uganda Registration Services Bureau’s refusal to register an organisation on the basis of its objective to protect the rights of LGBTI persons.

Finally, the Appendix contains the text of the NGO Act 2016; the position paper on the NGO Act, 2016 released by HRAPF shortly after the Act came into force and HRAPF’s suggested regulations to the NGO Act, which would address the concerns of minorities and marginalised groups in respect of the Act, are included.

We hope that readers find this magazine to be a valuable tool in analysing the human rights implications of the NGO Act, 2016. In particular, we hope that this magazine will shed light on the dangers presented to the future operation of NGOs advocating for the rights of marginalised groups or persons who engage in activities, which are criminalised along with the threats posed to the NGO sector as a whole. It is our aim for this magazine to be used as an advocacy tool to challenge the provisions of the NGO Act which are not in line with Uganda’s Constitution and international human rights standards.