WONETHA challenges AHA 2014, APA 2014 and the HIV Bill

The passing of three new laws in Uganda will be a direct attack on sexual and gender minorities. The Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) 2014 and Anti-Pornography Act (APA) 2014 have the President’s assent, while the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Bill (HIV Bill) 2010 is expected to be signed. The laws violate the rights of key populations and encourage intolerance in society. Bridging the Gaps partner WONETHA  (Women’s organisation network for human rights advocacy) has embarked on a two-pronged approach to seek justice: a legislative angle and sensitisation.

Barely two weeks after the passing of APA 2014, several women were undressed by the public in a bid to implement the law. The women were wearing miniskirts. Communities took justice into their own hands, until the Inspector General of Police called for calm. However, miniskirts are not even mentioned in the Act. The definition of pornography in APA 2014 is: ‘any representation through publication, exhibition, cinematography, indecent show, information technology or by whatever means, of a person engaged in real or stimulated explicit sexual activities or any representation of the sexual parts of a person for primarily sexual excitement’.

Photos LGBT exposed in tabloid

The Uganda tabloid Red Pepper published photos of LGBT people and, later, of WONETHA’s executive director and communication and advocacy officer under the headline ‘Top homosexual schools in Uganda’. This headline had nothing to do with the photos, as they are not homosexuals. A few days later, four men came to the office of WONETHA asking for the ED. She was out, but they thought she was hidden and forced her office open. The ED had to go into hiding for a few days and started to dress in Sharia to avoid recognition. Also two men came looking for the CAO, so she had to leave.

WONETHA and a number of other organisations are in the process of filing a case at the constitutional court to challenge APA 2014, following the Human Rights and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) Uganda filing a case challenging the AHA 2014. After the passing of APA 2014, WONETHA was concerned about the silence of the women’s movement regarding the indecent assault of women and the steps back in emancipation. Only the Centre for Domestic Violence Prevention (CEDOVIP) and the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) held a public demonstration and petitioned the speaker of Parliament on the law respectively.

Awareness

WONETHA has mobilised funds to inform communities about APA 2014, and to ensure that sex workers can manage themselves as far as security and community mob justice are concerned. This is an opportunity to create awareness among sex workers and the general population, including police officers and health workers.

WONETHA also challenges the HIV Bill, as it has provisions on mandatory HIV testing, partner notification, and criminalisation of HIV transmission. A number of sex workers are lesbian, transgender, and gay. The three new laws increasingly lead sex workers to abhor health care and other rights related services. To protect the health and human rights of LGBT people, WONETHA challenges AHA 2014, APA 2014, and the HIV Bill.

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