Human rights responses not “mutually exclusive,” State Department says
The question was: How would the decision to send increased United States military support to Uganda to track down human rights violator and warlord Joseph Kony affect the United States review of aid to the country where Parliament and President just approved their own human rights violation in the form of a new anti-homosexuality law?
Two responses to human rights violations are not mutually exclusive, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman answered. But when a law signed by the President of the country receiving aid to protect health and human rights threatens the lives and rights of aid-givers as well as recipients, and hobbles HIV-fighting efforts, it gets complicated. That was President Obama’s warning the day Uganda President Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014 into law and the beginning of work to untangle humanitarian aid from aid to human rights violators is bearing that out.
Unlike the earlier version of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, the new law does not include a penalty of death for “aggravated homosexuality,” and unlike the earlier law, it does not specify “Failure to disclose the offence,” of homosexuality, which would have eliminated patient provider confidentiality, as a crime. Perhaps that shows what scrutiny before a law is signed can accomplish.
What the new law does dictate is enough to effectively dismantle crucial HIV responses. The new law:
- imposes life in prison for “aggravated homosexuality” which includes when “the offender is a person living with HIV;”
- calls for mandatory HIV testing of anyone charged with homosexuality;
- includes a seven year prison sentence for anyone “who aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage in acts of homosexuality” or “participates in production, procuring, marketing, broadcasting, disseminating, publishing of pornographic materials for purposes of promoting homosexuality.”
- includes in its definition of “the offence of homosexuality: “he or she uses any object or sexual contraption to penetrate or stimulate the sexual organ of a person of the same sex.”
Those are just some of the provisions of the act directly affecting the ability of service providers to reach lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or other sexual minorities with life-saving HIV testing, information, care and treatment, as well as condoms, lubricants, support and counseling. The bill as a whole compromises those efforts as well by imposing secrecy over sexual practices and orientations. For a complete breakdown of the bill, see this 76 Crimes post.
- Shifting funding away from the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU). While the IRCU will receive $2.3 million to ensure uninterrupted delivery of treatment to the 50,000 people under its care, we will shift the remaining $6.4 million of IRCU’s funding to other partners;
- Suspending the start of a survey to estimate the size of key at-risk populations that was to be conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Uganda’s Makarere University;
- Shifting $3 million in funding to the Ugandan government designated for tourism and biodiversity promotion to NGOs working on biodiversity protection;
- Shifting the Department of Defense-sponsored Africa Air Chiefs Symposium and East Africa Military Intelligence Non-Commissioned Officer course to locations outside of Uganda.
- Suspending or cancelling near-term invitational travel for Ugandan military and police.
The response continues within the country as well. See this interview with Uganda Parliament Member Fox Odoi.