Ugandan activists lobby Parliamentary meeting to participate in gay rights discussion

IPU president Abdelwahed Radi (receiving flowers) and Ugandan Speaker Kadaga (left)

Uganda’s Parliamentary spokeswoman, Helen Kaweesa has said the 126th Inter Parliamentary Union Summit in Kampala will not discuss gay rights to health for Uganda because “homosexuality is illegal here,” according to Behind the Mask.

Kaweesa told a group of gay rights activists seeking accreditation to observer status to two of the summits deliberations on ‘HIV/Aids and the law’ and ‘Reducing to Zero new infections’ that homosexuals would not be accepted into the discussion because they “would divert the attention of the entire summit.”

The conference began in Kampala on March 31 and runs until April 15.

Activists from gay rights to health advocacy group UhspaUganda have spent most of the past two weeks lobbying the IPU organizing secretariat in Kampala for observer status at the sessions on HIV/AIDS and the law.

The IPU president, Abdelwahed Radi arrived in Uganda last week and over 2,000 delegates from global parliamentary democracies are expected to attend the conference.

Flavia Kyomukama, an LGBTI rights advocate with Uhspa Uganda last week responded to Kaweesa saying that the IPU summit had exhibited double standards and reinforced the existing hypocrisy in HIV/Aids programming in Uganda, like many other IPU member countries where same sex relationships are outlawed.

Kyomukama, who is openly living with HIV said there can be no zero infections within IPU [member countries] when homosexuals are left to suffer the brunt of HIV/Aids when they fear to go to hospitals because of homophobic laws. She said since Ugandan Parliament was already considering the first ever country attempt on managing HIV/Aids by way of the HIV/Aids Control Bill 2010, all groups ought to contribute to the success towards zero infections.

The Ugandan government recently released new figures suggesting that the HIV incidence in the country had risen to 6.7 per cent from 6.4 per cent in the last five years. At this figure, approximately two million people in Uganda are infected with HIV in total out of a country population of 33 million. In 2005, the infected population was just 1.1 million. The ministry of health declared that 7.7 per cent of women and 5.6 per cent of men are HIV positive.

Kyomukama said Uganda risked a new bridging population of HIV infections because some heterosexuals also have gay relationships.

Meanwhile Uhspa Uganda told Ugandan parliamentary officials that gay activists have a stake in the IPU discussion as observers because public health policy in Uganda had listed Most at Risk Population groups who are more predisposed to HIV infection.

The organisation said the presence of increased HIV prevalence among homosexuals was a failure on Uganda’s part to provide prevention information and education targeting people in same sex relations.

While the visiting IPU president, Abdelwahed Radi has praised the Ugandan Speaker of Parliament for organizing the meeting, it is not clear if he will condemn the infamous Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009 seeking a death penalty for Ugandan gays.

The Ugandan government has distanced its self from the anti-gay bill, saying it is a private legislator’s bill.

The IPU is an international organization of national parliaments and was established in 1889. It fosters contacts, co-ordination and the exchange of experience among parliaments and parliamentarians of all countries.

It considers questions of international interest and concern and expresses its views on such issues in order to bring about action by parliaments and parliamentarians.

According to the official website of the 126th summit due in Kampala, IPU also contributes to the defence and promotion of human rights – an essential factor of parliamentary democracy and development.

Many members of the IPU are also members of the Commonwealth, a consortium of former British colonies which has some member countries including Uganda with draconian legislation on same sex relationships.

Kamalesh Sharma, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth recently told the UN Human Rights Council, “Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is an area of concern on which we have given the perspective of Commonwealth values in various fora, including in this Council.

“Our position continues to be that we oppose discrimination or stigmatisation on any grounds, including those of sexual orientation. It is for member states to address incompatibilities between Commonwealth values and mostly inherited national laws in these areas.”

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