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Cablegate: Uganda: Homosexuality Remains Illegal and Controversial

VZCZCXRO9425
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHKM #1491/01 2700901
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 270901Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY KAMPALA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9419
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KAMPALA 001491

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM ASEC UG
SUBJECT: UGANDA: HOMOSEXUALITY REMAINS ILLEGAL AND CONTROVERSIAL

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Summary
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1. (SBU) Public resentment against homosexuality has sparked
demonstrations and significant public debate over the past few
months. The GOU continues to take a strong position against the
practice of homosexuality in Uganda, which is illegal. A local NGO,
Sexual Minorities in Uganda Group (SMUG) publicly declared its
existence and several members alleged harassment by police for their
vocal stand against societal discrimination. A landmark legal case
is now in the Uganda High Court in which two SMUG members allege
that government agents had violated their privacy rights.
Meanwhile, the case and other activism have put the issue on the
national agenda. Ugandan law criminalizes homosexuality, even
though Uganda is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights which bans discrimination based on sexual
orientation. This contradiction is being highlighted by
non-governmental organizations (NGOs). End Summary

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Background
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2. (SBU) On March 21, the U.S. Federal Appeals Court blocked the
deportation of Olivia Nabulwala, a self-declared Ugandan lesbian who
sought political asylum in the United States. In her defense,
Nabulwala told the court that her sexual orientation would guarantee
persecution if she returned to Uganda. The court referred her case
back to the Board of Immigration Appeals. Nabulwala reportedly
arrived in the U.S. in 2001 on a tourist visa. Within a few months
she filed for asylum.

3. (SBU) The first Uganda court case in which homosexuals sought
affirmation of their constitutional right to privacy in home and
person began in December 2006 and continues to be heard. Juliet
Victor Mukasa, Chairperson of SMUG, and Yvonne Oyoo sued the GOU for
violating their privacy rights. The High Court began hearing the
case in May this year and the next session is scheduled for
September 12. Mukasa alleged that in July 2005, police raided her
Kampala home in search of "homosexual tools." The police arrested
and later released the two women.

4. (SBU) SMUG members first demanded recognition at a conference
held in Jinja in September 2004. They allege that they are harassed
by police, taxi drivers and people on the streets. Others claim
that they are humiliated at school assemblies, forced to undress in
church "to remove evil spirits," or raped to "prove" that they are
women. Several members of SMUG, who made a vocal stand against
discrimination during the World Social Forum in Nairobi, also
claimed they were harassed by security agencies upon their return to
Uganda in January 2007. One member, Jacqueline Kasha, said she
feared abuse, or arrest. As a result, she changed residences after
being informed that the police were looking for her.

5. (SBU) Debates about homosexuality have made headlines throughout
the summer. High profile personalities offered letters and
editorials in the major media outlets and radio talk shows, the
majority of which condemned the practice of homosexuality. An
opinion poll conducted in Kampala by the Government-owned "New
Vision" showed that 95 percent of Ugandans were opposed to
homosexuality.

6. (SBU) The issue of homosexuality grabbed headlines again on
August 16, when SMUG members publicly declared their existence in
Kampala. The members complained about discrimination and demanded
societal acceptance. Masked participants claimed they were born
homosexual and wanted to live in peace. In a show of support, on
August 22, Human Rights Watch (HRW) sent a letter to President
Museveni demanding legal reforms repealing the laws against
homosexuality. HRW demanded that harassment against members of SMUG
cease. Opponents of homosexuality condemned the letter as an act
that lacked respect for Uganda's culture and values.

------------------------------------
Government Position On Homosexuality
------------------------------------

7. (SBU) Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity, Nsaba Buturo,
has spearheaded the Government's efforts to answer international
critics. He told Emboff that homosexuality would remain illegal in
Uganda. Buturo blamed the media for aiding "apologists of a foreign
culture. Uganda as a country has values and should be left to
defend those values." On August 21, Deputy Attorney General,
Freddie Ruhindi, urged government to enact a more stringent law
against homosexuals in Uganda. Police Spokesperson, Asan Kasingye,
refuted allegations that homosexuals were being persecuted. He
noted that "homosexuality is a crime that is still at low ebb in
Uganda. It is practiced secretively and it is difficult to find a
complainant."


KAMPALA 00001491 002 OF 002


8. (SBU) The Constitution of Uganda guarantees the preservation of
basic human rights yet homosexuality is prohibited by law.
Homosexuality and bestiality are deemed illegal in Section 140 of
the Uganda Penal Code. Sections 141 to 143 outline strict penalties
for these activities including up to five years in prison. There
are no reports of persons who were arrested and charged under this
law since 2005. Proof of the offence requires an individual to be
caught in the act in order to be arrested.

9. (SBU) On August 30 the Broadcasting Council suspended Capital FM
Radio presenter Gaetano Kaggwa and program controller George
Manyali. The Council alleged that the men permitted the use of
inappropriate language during their morning talk show. The main
audience of the show consists of families. Kaggwa contends that the
true reason for the suspension was that he hosted a live debate
among homosexuals. He admits that vulgar language was used but
argues that such language is used on other talk shows without
penalty. The Council asserted that Kaggwa is not qualified to host
such a show. (Note: Kaggwa is the host of Studio 53, an
African-wide show on satellite television. End Note.)


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Religious Groups Protest
------------------------

10. (SBU) On August 21, the Inter-faith Rainbow Coalition against
Homosexuality in Uganda and anti-homosexual activists demonstrated
against the practice and its promoters in Kampala. The demonstrators
carried placards to the "righteous guidance" for matters related to
sexual orientation. A petition was presented to Ethics Minister
Buturo, urging the GOU to take stronger action against what they
called "a well-orchestrated effort by SMUG to intimidate the
government." Pastors and religious leaders called on the Government
to resist external pressure to recognize gay rights. Buturo assured
the protestors that the Government would fight the campaign to
legalize homosexuality. Recently, Ugandan churches showed support
and provided pastoral assistance to several U.S. dioceses which were
against homosexuality. The East African Muslim Students Federation,
urged its members to fight the societal infiltration of "immoral
behavior."

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Comment
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11. (SBU) The issue of homosexuality in Uganda is highly
controversial and polls show that the majority of Ugandans oppose
it. As a result human rights groups and other social leaders have
failed to actively support sexual minorities in their fight for
recognition and acceptance. The numbers of homosexuals in Uganda is
unknown. The donor Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) is monitoring
the court case and other reported incidents. End Comment.
BROWNING

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