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Tánaiste: Anti-gay laws will "affect our valued relationship" with Uganda

Meanwhile, Uganda’s government has defended its decision to push through the controversial laws.

Kenyan gays and lesbians and others supporting their cause wear masks to preserve their anonymity in a protest against the Ugandan laws.
Kenyan gays and lesbians and others supporting their cause wear masks to preserve their anonymity in a protest against the Ugandan laws.
Image: Ben Curtis/AP/Press Association Images

THE TÁNAISTE HAS said he is “deeply concerned” by the news that Uganda intends to enact legislation to criminalise homosexuality.

Eamon Gilmore said that he has made it clear, including in direct talks with the country’s President Museveni, “that the enactment of this draconian legislation would affect our valued relationship with Uganda”.

Ireland and its EU partners have “engaged actively with the Ugandan Parliament and President Museveni in an effort to halt the regressive and discriminatory Anti-Homosexuality Bill”, said Gilmore.

It is in clear conflict with Uganda’s binding international obligations to uphold human rights. It is a threat to Uganda’s gay community and an affront to all those who value tolerance, respect and dignity of all people.

Gilmore said that once enacted, this legislation “will be a step back for Uganda” and he urged the President and the Ugandan Government “to uphold their international obligations to treat all citizens equally, regardless of their sexual orientation”.

I would like to express support for all human rights activists in Uganda, particularly those working for the human rights of Lesbian Bisexual Gay and Transgender people.

He said he would like to ensure these people “that Ireland is committed to ensuring that the people of Uganda do not suffer violence or discrimination on the grounds of their sexual orientation”.

“Ireland will continue to play a positive role in support of human rights and equality in Uganda,” said Gilmore.

Defending its stance

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Kenyan gays and lesbians and others supporting their cause wear masks to preserve their anonymity as they stage a rare protest. Pic: AP Photo/Ben Curtis

Uganda’s government defended its decision to push through tough anti-homosexuality laws, saying it was determined to protect the country’s “morals” even if that meant losing international aid.

Veteran President Yoweri Museveni has announced he would sign into law a controversial bill that will see homosexuals jailed for life, despite warnings from key allies including the United States.

Officials also said Museveni had last week signed into law anti-pornography and dress code legislation which outlaws “provocative” clothing, bans scantily-clad performers from Ugandan television and closely monitors what individuals watch on the Internet.

“We shall not care losing the financial support from our partners if only we are left alone,” Minister for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo told reporters, saying Ugandans would rather “die poor than live in an immoral nation”.

For donors to say they will not give us aid because of the anti-homosexuality bill and the anti-porno law, that is blackmail and unacceptable, they can rather stay with their aid. If tomorrow, the president signs the anti-homosexuality bill and the outside world say they are not coming to Uganda, let them remain there, we don’t care.

The anti-gay bill went through parliament in December after its architects agreed to drop an extremely controversial death penalty clause. The legislation still stipulates that repeat homosexuals should be jailed for life, outlaws the promotion of homosexuality and requires people to denounce gays.

People ‘should dress decently’

Another presidential spokesman said that Muzeveni had decided to support the bill after seeking advice from a team of domestic scientists who were asked to “study homosexuality and genetics in human beings”.

The spokesman said the scientists concluded that “there is no definitive gene responsible for homosexuality”, meaning that “homosexuality is not a disease but merely an abnormal behaviour” that needed to be banned.

On the anti-pornography law, Lokodo said the aim was to “curb pornographic practices”.

“We shall go to the common understanding of decency and we know everybody knows what is decent. The police, a special anti-pornography enforcement team, will enforce it,” he said.

What it is saying is that one should dress decently. In any public environment, are you in the market, are you in the street, are you on the podium?

On Sunday, US President Barack Obama said he was “deeply disappointed” in the Ugandan leader’s plans to move forward with the anti-gay bill and said it would complicate relations between Washington and Kampala.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also said that she “deeply concerned”, and that the EU “deplores discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.”

Gay men and women in the country face frequent harassment and threats of violence, and rights activists have reported cases of lesbians being subjected to “corrective” rapes.

In 2011, prominent Ugandan gay rights campaigner David Kato was bludgeoned to death at his home after a newspaper splashed photos, names and addresses of gays in Uganda on its front page along with a yellow banner reading “Hang Them”

- Additional reporting © AFP, 2014

Read:  Irish aid with strings attached: Should Ireland help countries that deny gay rights?>

Read: Uganda passes tough new bill against homosexuality>

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