Human Rights Abuses against LGBT community in Uganda

I asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs two questions on the situation regarding human rights abuses and discrimination against the LGBT community in Uganda. See Questions I tabled below with answers below from Minister of State in that Department, Joe Costello TD.

1. To ask the the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will reconsider Ireland’s commitment of nearly €40 million a year in bilateral aid to Uganda in light of the wide-spread anti-homophobic policies pursued by it’s government including a ban on homosexuality, and the current legislative bill in it’s parliament, also known as the ‘Kill the Gays Bill’ which calls for life in prison for homosexual offences and also contains a death penalty clause, and if he believes it is appropriate for Ireland to spend so much in a country that violates key human rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
2. To ask the the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has received any reports in the last year from our Ambassador in Uganda on the wide-spread anti-homophobic attitudes in the public sphere of that country, in particular the plans for anti-gay legislation, also known as the ‘Kill the Gays Bill’ that calls for life in prison for homosexual offences and the death penalty, if Ireland has raised the issue of Uganda’s ban on homosexuality with the Government there, and if he is concerned at the human rights issues this raises; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 11th July, 2012.

REPLY

The Government shares the concerns about the situation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender persons and activists in Uganda. We have been following developments on this issue closely, through our Embassy in Kampala, and we have consistently made our views known to the Ugandan authorities.

We are concerned about reports of ongoing harassment of LGBT activists and individuals in Uganda, and we view the reintroduction in the Parliament of a Private Members Bill seeking to criminalise homosexuality as of particular concern. The Deputy will be aware that a previous Private Members Bill raised similar concerns and we made our views known clearly at Government level in Uganda. This Bill was not followed through during that Parliamentary session. In a recent meeting with the Ambassador of Uganda, I directly raised the Government’s concerns in relation to the reintroduction of the Private Members Bill.

Ireland has engaged actively with the Ugandan Government for some time to highlight the human rights implications of this draft legislation. We, and other donors, have pointed out that the passage of any such law would be in conflict with Uganda’s international human rights obligations, and would damage relations with international partners. We have also made clear this issue has the potential to undermine Uganda’s human rights reputation both domestically and internationally.

We have consistently raised the issue through our Ambassador in Kampala, and we will continue to use every opportunity to raise the matter as an issue of human rights. Our Ambassador has also engaged with local human rights groups in order to hear their views on how best the international community should support the cause of human rights defenders. We have been active in our support for individual activists who have reported harassment and threats on the basis of sexual orientation.

Our engagement on this issue is strengthened by the way in which we work in partnership with Uganda through our bilateral aid programme. Uganda is one of the priority countries for Irish Aid, where we have a commitment to long term strategic assistance. We have helped contribute to some remarkable development results in Uganda over the past twenty years. The proposed programme budget for 2012 is €32.75 million. This funding is used to provide essential support to critical sectors such as governance, HIV and AIDS, and education, with a particular focus on the most disadvantaged northern region in Uganda, Karamoja.

It is clear that positive development results and respect for human rights must go hand in hand. Ireland remains strongly committed to helping build good governance and the rights of the most vulnerable and marginalised in Uganda and elsewhere, and this will remain a clear priority of our development assistance programme.

I am satisfied that the systems we have in place provide the best assurance that Ireland’s development aid is being used effectively and efficiently and is making a real difference for the people of Uganda.
(Minister of State Mr. Joe Costello, T.D.)