Petition Calls For Barclays, Citibank To Condemn Uganda's 'Kill The Gays' Anti-Homosexuality Bill

11/27/2012 04:37 pm ET | Updated 4 days ago

More than 370,000 people have signed a Change.org petition calling on Citibank and Barclays to condemn Uganda's so-called "Kill the Gays" bill.

In the introduction to the petition, creator Collin Burton of Washington, D.C., explains:

Ugandan legislators have re-introduced the dangerous Anti-Homosexuality Bill, a proposed law that would criminalize homosexuality in the country with extreme penalties. Under this proposed law, LGBT people could be killed or sentenced to life in prison, solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

As the bill’s author, David Bahati, has said he believes the government of Uganda should “kill every last gay person.” (1) And recently, the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament vowed to pass this dangerous legislation before the end of the year, calling it "a Christmas gift." (2) The vote is expected to happen any day.

As Joe Mirabella, Director of Campaigns at All Out, pointed out in a recent blog post, the Ugandan parliament officially added the bill to its schedule last Wednesday and could be voted on this week.

"It is expected to easily pass, and then it will be up to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to veto the bill," Mirabella wrote in a blog for The Huffington Post.

Museveni's veto could still be overturned by the assembly, however.

In an email to subscribers of the petition site on Tuesday, Mark Anthony, a Change.org senior campaigner said that "one way to stop this bill is to get pressure from banks that have significant resources invested in the country, such as Citibank and Barclays."

The two banking giants, explained Anthony, together "have hundreds of millions of dollars invested in Uganda and wield significant influence in the country, just as banking lobbyists wield influence with Congress in the US." A vocal condemnation of the "Kill the Gays" bill by Citibank and Barclays might therefore "be the best -- and only -- chance to stop it."

This, says Burton, a gay Citibank customer and LGBT advocate, is why he chose to spearhead this call to action.

"I expect Citibank and Barclays to live up to the values of equality and fairness, not just list them on their websites," he said earlier this year, according to a press release.

Citibank and Barclays are well known for their LGBT-positive policies. Both banks received a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index this year, earning them the accolade of the "best places to work for LGBT employees" in the United States. Earlier this year, Barclays -- regularly ranked as one of the best companies for LGBT employees -- was also named the most LGBT-friendly company in Scotland.

The petition, which is addressed to the two banks, reads:

With the “Kill the Gays” moving quickly in Uganda’s parliament, you have unique and necessary voice that could help stop this bill in its tracks. Your presence in Uganda is significant, and your voice in opposition to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill could have a profound impact in keeping LGBT people safe in Uganda.

In 2010, the UN Special Rapporteur on health, Anand Grover, warned that the bill is “not only a violation of the fundamental human rights of Ugandans, but will also undermine efforts to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.”

Like in many other sub-Saharan African countries, same-sex relations are already criminalized in Uganda. However, the bill, first introduced in 2009, would make the penalties far more severe.

Although the BBC and other news organizations reported last week that Uganda's parliament has dropped the controversial death penalty provision of the bill, Think Progress notes that it would be "irresponsible to suggest that the death penalty has been removed without a thorough investigation of the bill’s new language" -- something that has not been made public.

Regardless, even without a death penalty, the law would still “represent a barbaric regression for Uganda’s human rights record,” wrote Jim Burroway on Box Turtle Bulletin after dissecting the bill.

To read the complete petition, click here.

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