Kasha Nabagesera: Uganda must decriminalise same-sex relations and combat homophobia and transphobia
Members of the LGBT+ community in Uganda face discrimination, violence and persecution, Ugandan LGBT+ activist and 2015 Right Livelihood Laureate Kasha Nabagesera told the UN Human Rights Council on Friday, calling on the international body to urge the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships in the country.
“As I speak, hundreds of persons are seeing their rights violated, just for being who they are and for who they love,” Nabagesera told the Council. “Today, in Uganda, a person can still be sentenced to life just for engaging in consensual same-sex intercourse. Activists, on the other hand, face up to 5 years for having shared information on sexual orientation and gender identity-related topics.”
Nabagesera addressed the 50th session of the Council as it reached the end of its current review process of Uganda’s human rights record. The Council reviews the state of human rights in UN member states every 5 years, which is known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). This was Uganda’s third review.
On Friday, Uganda responded to the Council’s recommendations, committing itself to improving certain issues before the next review.
States made a number of recommendations with regard to the country’s LGBT+ community, which Nabagesera welcomed. Uganda “took note” of those points, yet did not commit to implementing any of them in the next 5 years. Nabagesera said this showed “a continuing disregard for the human rights of minorities.”
“I, therefore, urge the Council and all member States to keep Uganda under scrutiny, with particular attention to the situation of sexual minorities and urge the authorities not only to decriminalize same-sex relations but also to take effective measures to address homophobia and transphobia in society,” she said.
Nabagesera and Right Livelihood took an active part in the review process, which began last year. As the UPR is a peer-review process, non-governmental organisations are not able to make direct recommendations to the State under review. However, we can inform other States about human rights issues so that they can, in turn, make important recommendations to improve the human rights situation in the country.
Last year, we submitted a report on the situation of LGBT+ rights in Uganda, along with the Martin Ennals Foundation, to inform the UPR of Uganda. In December, Nabagesera took part in a UPR pre-session, an event organized by the NGO UPR Info and attended by numerous permanent missions in Geneva.
The actual review took place on January 27, 2022, during which 17 States issued recommendations related to topics on sexual orientation and gender identity. We noted that since the last UPR, recommendations have broadened to focus on acts of violence perpetrated by law-enforcement officers, forced anal examinations and hate crimes. Previously, the focus was overwhelmingly on decriminalisation of same-sex relationships and protection from discrimination.
In its summary of stakeholder information, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights made reference to our report on violence committed by law enforcement officers before and during the Covid-19 pandemic.