Ugandan Prohibition of Promotion of Unnatural Sexual Practices Bill Clearly Violates International Law

London, 12 December 2014

The Equal Rights Trust has today written to Prime Minister of Uganda, Ruhakana Rugunda, urging him and his government not to introduce the Bill on the Prohibition of Promotion of Unnatural Sexual Practices to the Parliament of Uganda. The Equal Rights Trust’s letter analyses the Bill against Uganda’s international legal obligations and concludes that, if enacted, the Bill would constitute a clear and significant breach of the rights to freedom of expression and non-discrimination. The Bill would also increase and perpetuate the discrimination and gross inequality suffered by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons in Uganda today.

In August 2014, the Constitutional Court of Uganda struck down the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014 on the basis that the legislation had been passed by the Parliament of Uganda without the required quorum. In response, a number of parliamentarians in Uganda called for similar legislation to be adopted in its place, and a committee of MPs from the governing party, the National Resistance Movement, was established to prepare a revised version of the law. In November 2014, a copy of the draft version was made available to the Equal Rights Trust.

The Bill creates various new offences, all of which can be loosely described as in some way “promoting” so-called “unnatural sexual practices”. Clause 1 of the Bill defines an “unnatural sexual practice” as “A sexual act between persons of the same sex, or with or between transsexual person (sic), a sexual act with an animal, and anal sex, within the meaning of section 145 of the Penal Code Act.” The Bill sets out various means by which “unnatural sexual practices” can be “promoted”, acts which could be interpreted as including simply providing information on safe same-sex sexual activity, renting a room to a LGBT people or raising money for LGBT organisations.

The Equal Rights Trust’s analysis of the Bill shows that the provisions would clearly violate Uganda’s international legal obligations, especially those under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In particular, it would violate the rights to freedom of expression and to non-discrimination found in Articles 2(1), 19 and 26 of the Covenant. In its letter, the Equal Rights Trust also raises concern over the continuing criminalisation of same-sex sexual activity between men in Uganda, a well-established violation of the rights to privacy and non-discrimination found in Articles 2(1), 17 and 26 of the Covenant.

The Equal Rights Trust called upon Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda not to introduce the Bill into the Parliament of Uganda, to stand firm against those calling for greater persecution of LGBT people and, instead, to introduce legislation repealing all provisions of the Criminal Code which discriminate against LGBT people.

To read ERT’s letter to Prime Ministers Ruhakana Rugunda, click here.

To read the Prohibition of Promotion of Unnatural Sexual Practices Bill, click here.