15/07/2020 HRC44: Denouncing the discrimination of LGBTI people in Uganda

HRC44: Denouncing the discrimination of LGBTI people in Uganda

Human Rights, 15/07/2020

On July 9th, the Human Rights Council held an interactive dialogue with Mr Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. During the debate, the Right Livelihood Foundation delivered an oral statement denouncing the discrimination against LGBTI people in Uganda and highlighted the case of Right Livelihood Laureate Kasha Jaqueline Nabagesera. 

During the 44th session of the Human Rights Council, Mr Madrigal Borloz presented his latest report focusing on the so-called “conversion therapies”, a term used to indicate a multitude of practices and methods aiming at effecting a change from non-heterosexual to heterosexual and from trans or gender diverse to cisgender. The Independent Expert provided a comprehensive overview of the nature of these practices, their current state and their human rights implications. Mr Madrigal-Borloz’s findings show that conversion therapy practices are by their very nature degrading, inhuman and cruel and create a significant risk of torture. For this reason, he called for a global ban on such practices. This must include: (I) clearly defining the prohibited practices; (II) ensuring public funds are not used to support them; (III) banning advertisements; (IV) establishing punishments for non-compliance and investigating respective claims; (V) creating mechanisms to provide access to all forms of reparation to victims, including the right to rehabilitation.

According to the report, Uganda is among the countries where faith-based organizations and political authorities have endorsed these practices. In particular, the report highlights that aversive treatments, such as the use of electric shocks, and medical practices, such as the invalid use of medication, appear to be widely prevalent in the country.

In this context, the Right Livelihood Foundation delivered an oral statement highlighting the case of the prominent Ugandan LGBTI defender and 2015 Right Livelihood Laureate Kasha Jaqueline Nabagesera. Through the statement, we denounced the use of these harmful practices in Uganda, as well as the recent resurgence of the anti-homosexuality bill in the country’s political debate. We called on the Ugandan authorities to decriminalise same-sex activity and to commit to protecting the rights of their LGBTI residents. We also denounced how COVID-19 has further exacerbated the stigmatisation and homophobic rhetoric in the country, as Ms Nabagesera herself explained in a recent interview we conducted with her.

Read the full statement below.

During the dialogue, 36 member states and observers took the floor. A large majority of speakers exposed good practices around conversion therapies in their countries. Uruguay, on behalf Argentina, Chile and Mexico and a cross-regional group of 41 countries, underlined how the CODIV-19 pandemic negatively affected the enjoyment of human rights of LGBTI persons, and expressed concern at the emergency policies implemented by some States, which resulted in an exacerbation of the discrimination against the LGBTI community. The same issue was raised by the EU, Germany and Italy, that urged States to take into account the specific needs and vulnerability of LGBTI persons in their response to the COVID-19.

In his concluding remarks, the Independent Expert highlighted that best practices on this issue will be achieved only through a combined action of policy, legislation and access to justice, within a context of wide political commitment to social inclusion.

Oral Statement – Delivered at the 44th Session of the Human Rights Council:

Thank you, Madam President,

The Right Livelihood Award Foundation welcomes the report of the Independent Expert and appreciates the comprehensive overview on conversion therapy practices across the globe and their human rights implications.

We would like to draw your attention to the worrying situation of the LGBTI community in Uganda, where not only some of these practices are widely used, as highlighted in the report, but homosexuality is illegal and same-sex relations can carry a life sentence. In this respect, we express deep concern at the resurgence, in October 2019, of the anti-homosexuality bill in the Ugandan political debate. The bill, that would make homosexual acts punishable by death, had been ruled unconstitutional in 2014.

Fédora Bernard from the Right Livelihood Foundation delivering the Oral Statement at HRC44.

Madam President,

LGBTI people in Uganda have a long history of facing discrimination, legal restrictions, and societal harassment. This is the case of Right Livelihood Laureate Kasha Nabagesera, a prominent Ugandan LGBTI defender who, due to her tireless fight against homophobic legislation and practice, has been arrested and subjected to reprisals, harassment, and physical attacks.

The recent COVID-19 outbreak has further exacerbated the stigmatisation and homophobic rhetoric in the country, with sexual minorities being targeted and blamed by some for the disease.

Madam President,

We urge the Council to call on the Ugandan government to decriminalise same-sex activity and we reiterate the recommendation raised by the Independent Expert calling on States to adopt appropriate anti-discrimination measures to ensure the protection and safety of their LGBTI residents.

Thank you.