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US/Uganda: 2011 Candidates for Homophobia “Hall of Shame”

Marking an International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia [IDAHO]

(New York) - A member of the Ugandan parliament and an American pastor are  top 2011 candidates for the Homophobia Hall of Shame, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch made the announcement in advance of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17.  

David Bahati, the Ugandan parliament member, is the author of a draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill discussed in parliament in recent days. Scott Lively, the pastor, has urged governments around the globe, including Uganda, to deny basic human rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

"Both Bahati and Lively are promoting hatred and putting the lives and security of LGBT people at serious risk," said Graeme Reid, director of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights (LGBT) Program at Human Rights Watch.  "Their efforts in Uganda would jeopardize the work of national and international human rights groups and activists as well as the lives of people who want to live in safety and dignity."

Bahati's bill proposed the death penalty for some homosexual acts, and would have criminalized the "promotion of homosexuality." The parliament session ended without a vote. In a recent televised debate, Bahati said: "The existence of [homosexuality] does not necessarily mean acceptance." In Uganda, "we are Christians; we view homosexuality as a sin. Period."

Bahati introduced his bill after a visit by Lively to Uganda in 2009 in which he claimed that wealthy white American and European men were recruiting adolescent Ugandan boys into homosexuality, and praised Uganda's existing criminal sanctions against homosexuality as deterrents against efforts to further "homosexualize" Uganda.

Lively's visit and Bahati's bill have increased tensions and threats against LGBT people in Uganda, Human Rights Watch said, including a tabloid newspaper campaign to release names and photos of people believed to be LGBT. On January 26, the Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato was murdered in his home, after he called on Ugandan authorities to end discrimination against LGBT people.

The International Day against Homophobia, on May 17, an initiative that began in 2005, commemorates the date on which the World Health Organization removed homosexuality form its roster of disorders in 1990.

Around the globe, groups organize events on May 17 to highlight negative attitudes that can lead to discrimination and intolerance against LGBT people. Events also focus on positive changes in society and progress being made in combating homophobia and transphobia.

Human Rights Watch, in recent years, has marked the day by naming a few public figures who have actively promoted prejudice against LGBT people in their countries. Previous candidates include Yuri Luzhkov, then mayor of Moscow, in 2006, for banning Moscow's LGBT pride parade to protect the rights of the "majority"; President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran in 2007, for allowing the death penalty for same-sex consensual acts; and Lech Kaczynski, the deceased president of Poland, in 2008, for denying equality to LGBT families.

"There are plenty of potential nominees to the ‘hall of shame,' but we try to focus on public figures who have failed to respect human rights for all and who singled out LGBT people in a negative way," Reid said. "The discrimination that these public figures promote encourages the homophobia and transphobia that make the daily lives of countless people around the world a torment."

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