Uganda gay rights activists fight on despite re-introduction of anti-gay bill

Even as the obnoxious “kill the gays” bill and the contentious HIV/Aids Control and Prevention Bill 2010 were being reintroduced in parliament on Tuesday this week, Ugandan gay rights activists vowed to continue their struggle.

Amid the fuss over the re-introduction in parliament of the bills on Tuesday the activists put up a spirited defence for inclusion of homosexuals in the country’s National HIV/Aids response.

The HIV bill was challenged in April 2011 with a petition to Parliament by gay rights activists, contesting the exclusion of homosexuals from HIV/Aids prevention and control programmes.

This contentious bill was reintroduced alongside the anti-gay bill on Tuesday and has been put on the Parliamentary Order Paper that outlines priority Bills for discussion.

On condition of anonymity because is not allowed to make media comments, an official in the Clerk of Parliament’s office told Behind the Mask on February 9, that the HIV bill will be tabled early next week.

In a copy of a report of the Social Services committee to the Plenary from the previous eighth Parliament obtained by Behind the Mask, it is clear that the committee did not include minority’s rights to health.

Nevertheless, it is not clear whether the new text of the HIV bill due for tabling next week will also tackle minorities rights to HIV/Aids care.

Both bills had lapsed with the expiry of the previous parliament early last year, but as the new parliament came in an army parliamentary representative moved a motion in the House to resurrect all lapsed bills.

However, parliament’s official spokeswoman, Helen Kaweesa has said all reports on bills brought forth from the previous parliament will be used as a basis for deliberating on the bills that have been reintroduced in the new Parliament.

Gay activists attending a consultative meeting for national NGOs to chart the maximization of civil society contribution in informing policy direction in HIV programming on Tuesday noted that homosexual exclusion from access, care, treatment and support would slow down halting new infections.

The meeting at Hotel Africana in Kampala was called by the Uganda Network of Aids Service Organisations (UNASO), a coordinating national entity of 960 other Ugandan nongovernmental organizations. It has played a vital role in assisting those groups to raise their organizational and management capacity.

The gay activists from Spectrum Uganda, UhspaUganda and Marps Network called on fellow activists from mainstream HIV/Aids and human rights groups to defend universal access to care and support without discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Homosexuals and sex workers in Uganda have higher HIV/Aids prevalence in their communities compared to the 6.4 per cent prevalence in the general population. Although the government has initiated contacts at high level policy making with gay rights activists on health, there is still much to be done.

Dr Thomas Muyunga, a gay friendly doctor in Kampala said his gay clients need lubricants and information on prevention of HIV/Aids. He said many CSO programmes should mainstream gay access to information on prevention and treatment of HIV/Aids.

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