Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, A/HRC/14/20/Add.1, 19 May 2010: Uganda
342. On 23 December 2009, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, together with Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Chairperson of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions sent a joint allegation letter to the Government of Uganda concerning a legislative bill pending before the Ugandan legislature, Bill No. 18 of 2009.
343. According to the information received, the Parliament of Uganda would be currently considering Bill No. 18 of 2009 (also known as the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill”) tabled before it on 15 October 2009. The proposed Bill increases penalties for homosexual conduct and criminalizes many related activities. The envisaged penalties range from imprisonment not exceeding three years for the failure to denounce the commission of an offence as defined by the Bill to life imprisonment and the death sentence. Consensual homosexual conduct is already a criminal offence under article 145(a) of the Ugandan criminal code, which penalizes “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature”. However, Bill No. 18 would expand the reach of this existing provision by including “any person who touches another person with the intention of committing an act of homosexuality”. The Bill also punishes “aggravated homosexuality,” including activity by “serial offenders” or those who are living with HIV, with the death penalty.
344. In addition, the Bill punishes any form of “promotion of homosexuality” with imprisonment of five to seven years. This raises concerns that the work of civil society actors and human rights defenders addressing issues of sexual orientation or gender identity might be criminalized. The Bill specifies that this includes anyone who publishes or disseminates “homosexual materials,” “funds or sponsors homosexuality and related activities,” “uses electronic devices which include internet, films and mobile phone” or “who acts as an accomplice or attempts to promote or in any way abets homosexuality and related practices.” The Bill also criminalizes failure to report any offences within its scope, compelling citizens to report to the authorities anyone whom they suspect of engaging in homosexual activity.
345. Furthermore, HIV prevention activities in Uganda, which rely on an ability to speak frankly about sexuality and health and to provide condoms and other safer sex materials, may be compromised by this Bill. However, women, sex workers, people living with HIV and other marginalized groups may also find their activities tracked and criminalized through this Bill should it be enacted into law.
346. Concerns were raised with the Government regarding its commitment to protect the right to health as reflected in the international legal instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 25(1)) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (article 12), which the Government of Uganda ratified on 21 April 1987.
347. Furthermore, a number of studies indicate that criminalization of homosexuality will have a detrimental impact on efforts to combat the spread of HIV in Uganda. It has been shown that decriminalization of homosexuality, combined with efforts to address stigma and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons constitutes a far more effective approach to HIV prevention. If the Bill came into force, it would impede access to HIV- and health-related information and services for LGBT individuals and could thereby undermine the national HIV response, not only by discouraging LGBT individuals from seeking and accessing services, but also by preventing service providers from providing information and services to members of this community.
348. The Special Rapporteur regrets that at the time of the finalization of the report, the Government has not transmitted any reply to his communication.
Link to full text of the report: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/14session/A.HRC.14.20.Add.1_EFS.pdf