Actions speak louder than words and now is the time to act
By Melanie Nathan, January 03, 2014.
I sent a letter off today to President Obama, asking him to help our Kuchu family in Uganda. We should not be separated by borders when our lives are at stake. So many of us were rescued or saved at some point in history. Including my own family. The letter speaks for itself.
Let me add that its not just about Uganda, although the Ugandan Parliament has just passed their Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and I have many asking for asylum, Uganda makes a good example. its about other countries too – Russia and its Anti-Propaganda law, the Nigerian president about to sign the Jail-The-Gays-Bill, the Indian Supreme Court just re-criminalizing homosexuality by re-instating an 1860 penal code, Jamaica, Belize, and others and its because of all of this that we need an accelerated visa/asylum process for those persecuted worldwide due to sexual orientation and gender identity.
Dear President Obama,
Please help our Kuchu friends.
Mr. President, we are grateful that you have spoken out publicly against the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality bill (AHB), noting that the Bill is “odious.” With respect I submit that it is time to take action and for us in the United States to do much more for the Ugandan LGBTI community, which is now in even greater danger.
Now that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has passed, there is a good chance it will be made into law very soon. And even if it does not become law, which is remote, the harm to the LGBT community in Uganda is insurmountable.
I have been advocating against the Bill and writing about it since its introduction in 2009 and since that time have become well sourced, establishing relationships with members of the LGBT community in Uganda. This has led to my work with asylum seekers in Uganda, verifying their stories and trying to help establish safe-houses and support. There is not nearly enough help or resources available in this critical situation.
Currently I have several young Ugandans, verified on my list, who are desperate and need to leave Uganda for their survival. What kind of life is it to live in hiding? There are many more people sending in requests at this time and I am sure there are many more trying to make contact with the United States for help. None of these people work as human rights defenders and hence do not have access to any special treatment or funding when it comes to international travel. They are amongst the most marginalized of the LGBTI community in Uganda right now, with little to no resources available to them, because they are in hiding. I have witnessed the hell of their lives for the past year or more. They have also been turned away by our local U.S. based LGBTI organizations who say that until they get to the U.S.A., there is nothing they can do to help from afar.
Though their stories vary, all have been persecuted in Uganda for their sexuality and all are terrified that they are going to be arrested and subjected to life in prison or become the victims of mob violence if they are further exposed.
Out of these people, some have already been exposed in the Ugandan media, through the public outings of their sexuality, with their faces exposed. Some have already been harassed by police and forced to pay bribes to stay out of prison, with the threat of further arrests. Some of these young people have already been physically assaulted and traumatized, some are afraid to seek treatment at hospitals or clinics for medical needs, and some have been in hiding for many months, moving from safe-house to safe-house, without the ability to work and earn a living. A few friends form afar have struggled to help support individuals, but there are no U.S. based organizations meeting this need, and there has been very little outreach, if any, from our local LGBT groups to address their immediate needs.
On a practical level it is almost impossible for any of these people from Uganda and other parts of Africa, where homosexuality is criminalized, to access a way to obtain asylum in the U.S.A. No U.S.A. organization has agreed to work with these individuals while they are in Uganda, to help them obtain asylum in the U.S.A. Hence unless they were to already be on U.S. soil, this is virtually impossible for most of the asylum seekers to accomplish on their own, because they have no money and they are unable to acquire visas to the United States, in the first place.
It is a known fact that this is made easier for human rights defenders who get invited workshops and then once in the U.S.A., claim asylum. Or for those with money who can find ways to obtain visitor visas and then once on U.S. soil request asylum. Yet there is a large group of LGBT people, in desperate need, who are not connected, and who do not have any recourse at all. Nothing has been put in place to help these people and they are in urgent need of our help.
Because of the past years of heightened persecution in Uganda and the newly passed AHB, there is now a large group developing who cannot afford these mechanisms to reach our shores and we must find a way to help.
For some of these people it is impossible to leave for another African country as they will be subjected to further persecution for being gay, lesbian or transgender, within refugee communities.
I am asking that special humanitarian considerations be given, as a matter of urgency, for Uganda’s LGBTI community that seeks to leave Uganda, prior to the finalization of this Bill. Time is of the essence.
Once the Bill is made law, there will be arrests and people will not be able to leave. It will may be too late for some to leave, once caught up in the Ugandan legal system. I am hoping that you will consider some special protocols for Uganda’s LGBTI community. While I would hope for such treatment of any LGBT person criminalized by their country’s laws, what makes the Ugandan community’s circumstances critical at this point in time, is the fact that it is quite possible that there could be mass arrests once the law passes, and that the law itself has provisions which will cause all the NGO’s which are available to help to have to shut down. It is also feared that leadership in Uganda, who are often available to help others, will be compromised through these closures and arrests. Even if the law does not pass to finality, these people will be subjected to continued violence due to the sordid atmosphere created by the Bill and its proponents.
I have had indications and promises from members of the LGBTI community that who are willing to take LGBTI refugees into their homes while they settle down in the U.S.A. There are faith based groups on standby ready to help. All we need is for the U.S. to make special provisions for visas or a speed up a humanitarian parole process.
What I find even more egregious is that members of the Ugandan community who in fact participate in the persecution of Gays, stand more chance of receiving visas to enter the USA than the victims of the persecution. I believe that every member of the Ugandan Parliament who voted for this Bill, including speaker Kadaga, David Bahatii and others, as well as all those responsible for outing gays in media, to include Red Pepper’s owners and staff, Giles Muhame of Uganda’s Rolling Stone and Now Chimp Reports, to include Martin SSempa, Pastor Male, and the Archbishop of Uganda, should all be denied entry to the U.S.A.
I believe we can and ought to show the world that we really mean what we say, when we note we will not tolerate this flagrant breach of basic human rights or persecution against LGBTI people, starting in Uganda. While not all Kuchus will want to obtain asylum, I believe on a humanitarian level we are compelled, under these circumstances, to make our shores available through innovative and creative means, to all and any in this world whose right to their sexuality is criminalized by government.
Thank you for your kind attention to this matter. I look forward to hearing what I can do further to help our Kuchu family.
Very truly yours,
Private Courts International
Copies will be sent today to:
Secretary of State John Kerry
Senators /Congress members:-
Sen. Tammy Baldwin
Sen. Patrick Leahy
Sen. Diane Feinstein
Sen. Barbara Boxer
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Sen. Ed Markey
Rep. Jerrold Nadler
Rep. Jared Huffman
Rep. Jackie Speier
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton
Rep. Jackie Speier
Rep: Maxine Waters
Rep: Barbara Lee
Sen. Scott Dibble (MN)
Sen. Mark Leno
Sen. Ed Murray (Seattle Mayor Elect)
To the United States LGBT Community and friends:-
As a member of the LGBT community in the United States and as an advocate for human rights, I cannot sit by and watch the persecution of our LGBTI community in Uganda, without offering feasible and direct help.
Aside:- philanthropist from South Africa, Isaac Ochberg , against all odds, took a ship to Russia during the pogroms and persecution of the Jews in the early 1900’s. He succeeded in rescuing 100 Jewish kids whose parents could not make it to America. The South African Government opened its borders. They were saved from likely death, and one of those orphans was my granny Rose, of blessed memory. She was raised in the Johannesburg Jewish orphanage. My brother and I are now part of a group of over 3,000 descendants, of what has become known as The Ochberg Orphans. This situation is no different in Uganda; without the Diaspora, and the help of worldwide LGBT communities, we will lose this battle. I hope Mr. President that you are able to see the importance of special action in this instance.
And now: I am hoping that the LGBT organization of the United States will take note and start to do more for Uganda and Africa when it comes to advocating for help and providing direct resources. You are all caught up in what the law IS and not what you can do to change it. You also do not provide funding for these critical and urgent needs. Is there a way we can change that? I am inviting any one of the LGBT organizations who already turned down Ugandans or have yet to be contacted for help to step up to the plate. You can contact me and I will provide you with a list of needs.
We are requesting that money be set aside for food, shelter, clothing, safehousing as well as visas, filing fees and air tickets.
Contact me if you want to contribute to THE RESCUE FUND – 100% proceeds to be used for these needs. All legal work for the LGBT community of Uganda will be pro bono.
ACT NOW TO STOP THE ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY BILL IN UGANDA FROM BECOMING LAW
A **CALL TO ACTION** by KUCHU DIASPORA ALLIANCE (KDA) | Uniting across continents to amplify the collective voice of our movement
The Kuchu Diaspora Alliance (KDA), a network of Ugandan LGBT activists living in the Diaspora is echoing the voice of our comrades on the ground in Uganda, by calling to action allies of the Ugandan LGBT struggle and all those that support equality and dignity for all, to organize your communities to action against the recent passage of the Anti- READ MORE ... http://oblogdeeoblogda.me/2014/01/02/act-now-to-stop-the-anti-homosexuality-bill-in-uganda-from-becoming-law/
Brilliant, really well written Melanie. Thanks for all you are doing for this and other related LGBT causes.
Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
Uganda needs your help!!! Please ….
I couldn’t have said it better
I agree, its very well written and I hope everyone is treated fairly and equally. It’s very sad a frightening to see the amount of hatred towards gay people; I have a few gay friends and cousins and it would be devastating to see them in a protest like this. equality for all