By Melanie Nathan, September 11, 2013.
In an ironic quest for legitimacy on the issue of human rights, Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament has urged Members “to always ensure that the bills and motions they consider pass the human rights compliance test.” A new tool the Check List for Human Rights, a brain child of the Parliament Committee on Human Rights, was launched September 10 in Kampala, by the Speaker of Parliament Rt.Hon. Rebecca Kadaga. One wonders whether the speaker, a fan of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (AHB), will allow the AHB to be subject to the very test she is touting. One thing is for sure and that is if the Ugandans are serious about this, it is not a happy moment for anti-gay extremist and author of the AHB, David Bahati.
The Committee’s list and the new tool notes that Human Rights are universal and inalienable. This flies in the face of MP David Bahati, and Speaker Kadaga herself, who have stood by in support of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and justified it as acceptable legislation, by using the argument that Uganda is a sovereign State and hence can make any popular law it wants, even if it is in flagrant disregard of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
One can only wonder whether or not the Anti-Homosexuality BIll, which has seen several introductions into the Ugandan Parliament since 2010, including into this current session of Parliament, would withstand the new test. And by whose measure would that be? Kagada’s or the rest of the world? Read on and then note the last paragraph where I suggest you read the guidelines and submit the Bill to the test.
Addressing legislators, human rights activists and several participants Speaker Kadaga said the new tool provides a mechanism that would alert MPs to cross check whether the bills they consider comply with human rights. This should surely apply to Bahati and the Bills that are currently in the legislative process.
“It is noteworthy that, whereas the Constitution is emphatic on protecting and guaranteeing human rights and freedoms, there is no guidance from the Constitution to alert Members of Parliament to the inconsistencies that are embedded within the Bills, policy statements, budgets or other business handled by Parliament. It is this that has resulted in some of our enactments being struck down for failure to comply with the human rights contained in our cherished Constitution,” she said.
The Speaker reminded legislators that litigation in the court cases by Ssemwogerere, Andrew Mwenda and Muwanga Kivumbi points to the failure to reconcile the universal demands to promote and protect individual rights and the duties of a free and democratic society. And so she makes the case to oust the AHB, if in fact it fails the test of an acceptable Bill under this new test.
Rt.Hon.Kadaga noted that although states are the primary duty bearers for the protection and fulfillment of individual rights, the rights are not only endangered by states but also the actions of some individuals.
“The people of Uganda will not find comfort until the rights of all are observed. Although the Constitution provides a whole chapter on human rights, it requires a human rights bill to help in the implementation of its provisions. The absence of the human rights Act will be addressed by the checklist,” she said.
The Speaker decried the use of bucket toilets in the Police cells in Uganda and labelled the practice one of the most dehumanizing things that can happen to human being. But of course did not mention the dehumanizing effect of having one’s sexuality being criminalized. At least there is equality in the use of toilets in prison but certainly no equality as to what one’s sexuality ought to be to ensure one does not land in such prison.
Perhaps too much to expect that while we are talking human rights and the related obligations, that Uganda protect all its minorities, including LGBTI people, rather than turn on them with the introduction of inappropriate anti-gay legislation, such as the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, dubbed the Kill The Gays Bill, the brain child of MP. David Bahati as influenced by radical Christian Evangelical holocaust revisionist, extremist American Scott Lively.
Does one wonder whether Speaker Kadaga is having a REAL “come to Jesus” moment and reconsidering or regretting her plan to deliver the Kill the Gays Bill to Ugandans as her 2012 Xmas gift. While the latter never occurred, the Bill hovered ominously over the heads of gay Ugandans for months, finding itself at top positions on Parliaments Order Papers (Agenda) on a few occasions. Now the Bill seems to have disappeared into thin air as it has not appeared on the Order Papers for over a month of sessions. Perhaps we can hope that some skilled human rights detection tool will happen to note that killing and jailing gays is indeed a huge human rights infraction, at least by international standards. What will Uganda’s litmus test be?
H.E Alison Blackburne the British High Commissioners to Uganda reminded legislators of the cardinal role Parliament plays in protecting and promoting human rights as set out in Uganda’s Constitution. She noted that human rights observance was critical if nations are to attain prosperity.
“Human Rights and Good governance are essential for the prosperity and security. Democratic governance and sustainable development cannot take place when people are not able to enjoy their human rights,” she emphasized.
The High Commissioner reaffirmed that all legislators, human rights organizations and other relevant stakeholders need to promote the use of the checklist within and outside Parliament. This she said will promote accountability to the general public and work towards creating an atmosphere that is free of human rights abuses in Uganda. MP Jovah Kamateeka the Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee of Parliament appealed to government to review the shoot to kill policy for robbers recently announced by the Uganda Police Force.She said the policy itself is unconstitutional and may lead to the loss of innocent lives. Hon. Kamateeka applauded government for creating the Uganda Human Rights Commission, but appealed for the rolling out of human rights desks in all institutions and the security forces.
The Human Rights Checklist is in PDF form.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS CHECKLIST FOR COMPLIANCE WITH HUMAN RIGHTS IN POLICY, BILLS, BUDGETS, GOVERNMENT PROGRAMMES AND ALL BUSINESS HANDLED BY PARLIAMENT:
Here is a paragraph from the 26 page guideline which refers directly to The International Declaration of Human Rights – which for all purposes includes LGBTI people:
3.0 HUMAN RIGHTS
Human rights are the acceptable principles and standards of behaviour that a person is entitledto by virtue of their humanity. They are intrinsic or inherent in the human person whatever the nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, religion, colour, language or any other status. Protecting and promoting human rights ensures that every human being is treated with the basic dignity due to a person.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, agreed to by the nations of the world on 10December 1948, sets out the basic rights and freedoms of all men, women and children.3.1 HUMAN RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS UNDER THE CONSTITUTIONThe following rights and freedoms are guaranteed by the Constitution:(a) Equality and freedom from discrimination- article 21.(b) Protection of right to life- article 22.(c) Protection of personal liberty- article 23.(d) Respect for human dignity and protection from inhuman treatment – article 24.(e) Protection from slavery, servitude and forced labour- article 25.(f) Protection from deprivation of property- article 26.(g) Right to privacy of person, home and other property- article 27.(h) Right to a fair hearing- article 28.(i) Protection of freedom of conscience, expression, movement,religion, assembly and association- article 29(j) Right to education – article 30.(k) Rights of the family- article 31.(l) Affirmative action in favour of marginalised groups –article 32.(m) Rights of women- article 33(n) Rights of children- article 34.(o) Rights of persons with disabilities- article 35(p) Protection of rights of minorities- article 36.(q) Right to culture and similar rights – article 37.(r) Civic rights and activities – article 38(s) Right to a clean and healthy environment.- article 39(t) Economic rights- article 40.(u) Right of access to information- article 41.(v) Right to just and fair treatment in administrative decisions- article 42.(w) Human rights and freedoms additional to other rights-article 45.
Upon reading the checklist, and the speaker’s statement urging compliance I find that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (AHB) will indeed not comply with the standard and that it will in fact fail the test. Accordingly, the Bill should never be introduced into Parliament again, regardless of its popularity amongst Parliamentarians. I urge readers to read the PDF check list and to fill it in considering the AHB and one will note how clear it is that in fact the AHB is a Bill, that now, according even to Kadaga’s standards, should be pulled out of Parliament and never allowed an introduction again, as it infringes so many aspects of the freedoms and rights described in the toolkit.
Well done Uganda for this extraordinary Committee guideline – maybe this can be used as a mechanism for the complete decriminalization of homosexuality with regard to old existing penal codes such as that which currently govern the so called “crimes against the order of nature” which, through its lack of clarity, has the tacit impact of outlawing LGBT relationships. However one must remain alert to the fact that regardless of these guidelines and how they may apply or may not apply to the Kill the Gays Bill, homophobia remains a serious problem in Uganda, especially amongst the Evangelical Christian extremists who continue to attack the rights of gays, regardless of where the law is at.
We have reached out to Ugandan activists to comment on the measure and will update accordingly.
Updated: 4:00PM PST:
Frank Mugisha, Award wining Human Rights Defender and LGBT activist from Uganda told me:
“I know the human rights committee has been asked to check all bills before they are introduced to parliament. I think this gives us a chance to lobby and hold parliament accountable to respect all human rights including gay rights.”
By Melanie Nathan
By Melanie Nathan, April 05, 2013. We have been watching the progress of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill on this site.Previous updates can be seen at http://oblogdeeoblogda.me/2013/02/19/ugandas-anti-homosexuality-bill-moves-up-to-1-on-parliaments-notice-of-business/ Since the end of March, Uganda’s Parliament had a short recess and returned to business on April 03. However something unusual seems to have occurred. The Parliament’s website has suddenly […]
We have reached out to Ugandan activists to comment on the measure and will update accordingly.