25 February 2014:

The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) in partnership with LEGABIBO (Lesbians Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana), are appalled by the decision of the Ugandan government to enact the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2013. This new Act aims to prohibit any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex as well as to prohibit the promotion or recognition of such relations. Furthermore, this Act imposes punitive measures ranging from 3 years imprisonment for persons in positions of authority failing to report an act of homosexuality within 24 hours, to life imprisonment for persons who purport to enter into a same sex marriage. 

This Act is regressive, promotes hate among citizens and goes against all efforts made by the government of Uganda, its regional and international development partners to attain human rights for all; especially for the marginalised populations in reducing the impact of the HIV and AIDS epidemic, essentially criminalising sexual activity between two consenting adults of the same sex. This law also breaches numerous human rights obligations under treaties ratified by the Ugandan government, including the fundamental principles of non-discrimination, basic personal bodily liberty, and private rights. 

BONELA and her partners therefore call on the Government of Botswana, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to condemn this regressive move by the Government of Uganda. The Government of Botswana has a responsibility to ensure that human rights are upheld by its regional and international partners. The Botswana Government has been accountable and has shown leadership in condemning human rights abuses in Africa and beyond, and we urge them to do so once again. It is only when African Union member states and other regional bodies begin to be vocal about the protection of human rights of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, that the people of Uganda and Africa can be protected from oppressive laws.

Recognising the influence that the Government of Botswana has in the region and specifically in SADC, BONELA appeals to the government to take a firm stance against Ugandan’s Anti-Homosexuality Act and develop a position to that effect.

The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights recognises that “human beings are inviolable and shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person.” The Charter further states that no one may be arbitrarily deprived of this right. Article 28 of the Charter provides that every individual shall have the duty to respect and consider his fellow beings without discrimination, and to maintain relations aimed at promoting, safeguarding and reinforcing mutual respect and tolerance. The Anti-Homosexuality Act is an obvious threat to these and many other rights.

Uganda was the first African state to speak up about the impact of AIDS on their country and made strides in reducing HIV incidence and prevalence among its citizenry. Regrettably, this Act threatens to rescind the positive steps made by driving those most affected under-ground and stopping them from seeking and accessing the much needed healthcare services. 

We therefore urge the Government of Botswana, Civil Society, Faith Based Organisations, Parastatals and other Human Rights defenders to mount international pressure on the Government of Uganda to rescind this barbaric law.