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Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill Doubly Endangers LGBT Community and Human Rights Activists

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In recent months, intolerance for sexual minorities in Uganda has intensified due to a bill introduced before parliament that threatens the most basic rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. The more controversial provisions of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would sentence HIV-positive homosexuals to death for their sexual acts, make it illegal to publicly defend LGBT rights, or provide social and medical services to LGBT individuals, and turn Ugandan citizens into anti-homosexual informers. This week I am traveling to Washington, DC to speak at the Washington Human Rights Summit, where I will address the bill's costs to human rights and democracy in Uganda.

The Ugandan penal code already violates international human rights norms by criminalizing homosexuality, and the larger societal effects are seen. LGBT Ugandans endure verbal insults, physical and sexual harassment, arbitrary arrests and torture, and humiliating publicity. They are victims of correctional rape and other sexual abuse, blackmail, and arbitrary detention, and are denied health care, housing, education and other social services on account of their sexual orientation. Since the introduction of this bill in October, 2009, there have been reports of death threats against LGBT individuals and police have raided the offices of some human rights activists.

Most Christians in Uganda support this bill because homosexuality is seen as "a spiritual and moral cancer" and painted as harmful to society, showing a misunderstanding about sexual minorities that solidifies intolerance and engenders violence. In an attempt to determine the cause of my sexual variance, a dentist once asked me if there were witches in my family. In addition to my dentist's unwelcome inquiries, I've had my house set on fire, had several demands for invasive body searches as a prerequisite for job interviews and church membership, and lost a job due to slanderous media coverage about my sexuality. My personal experiences speak to the harassment that affects LGBT Ugandans every day, and the passage of this bill will weaken Ugandan democracy and ruin the lives of countless individuals who are already suffering under oppressive anti-homosexual legislation.

If passed, this bill will heighten legislative and social persecution of sexual minorities in Uganda, increasing hate crimes and their consequent risk of torture, blackmail, and murder of homosexuals by both state and non-state actors. Religious leaders are already threatening to hunt homosexuals if the government does not pass the bill quickly. As a human rights defender and sexual minority, I fear for my life. As a Christian, I know that this bill is devoid of the principles of love, tolerance, compassion, and mercy that Christianity embodies.

My organization, SIPD, promotes support and human rights for people with atypical sex development, and is part of the Civil Society Coalition -- a larger alliance with members of Uganda's civil society -- that is campaigning against the monstrous implications of this bill. We believe that the character of our country and the rights of its citizens are at stake, and we will continue to insist that the parliament and government of Uganda withdraw the bill in its entirety. The Bill is unconstitutional and it would show our country to be among the most repressive and dangerous for sexual minorities.

Julius Kaggwa is director of the Support Initiative for people with atypical sex Development.