HRC Blog

Full Recap of Yesterday’s House Uganda Hearing

Uganda Embassy Protest 019Yesterday, Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., provided exceptional leadership in chairing a hearing by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009.  Baldwin began the hearing by calling the Ugandan bill “despicable” and “reprehensible.”  Similar sentiments were expressed by Reps. James McGovern, D-Mass., and Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.  The opening remarks of these representatives indicated their beliefs that the U.S. must send a strong signal to Uganda that the U.S. will not tolerate legislation that violates the human rights of LGBT individuals abroad.  No Republican members of the Commission were in attendance at the hearing. The hearing consisted of two rounds of testimony and questions.  First, Karl Wycoff, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, testified on the Administration’s position on the bill.  He stated that not only does the Administration condemn the substance of the bill pending in the Ugandan Parliament, but that dropping the capital punishment element and the reporting requirement in the bill would not be sufficient to deter the Administration from actively advocating against the bill.  Furthermore, he testified that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson, and the U.S. Embassy in Uganda have all had discussions with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, and that Museveni has stated on multiple occasions that he will not let the bill become law. The second round of testimony included four panelists – Julius Kaggwa of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, Uganda; Cary Alan Johnson, executive director of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission; Kapya Kaoma, a project director for Political Research Associates; and Christine Lubinski, executive director of the HIV Medicine Association.  Each of these panelist provided important testimony about how the bill effects Ugandans and their human rights, including how this proposed legislation would harm U.S. funded HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment initiatives in Uganda. Notably, Mr. Kaggwa, who flew from Uganda to testify before the Commission, provided incredible insight into the political climate that surrounds the proposed legislation in Uganda.  He traced the origins of the bill to the anti-LGBT sentiments espoused by American evangelicals and the American ex-gay ministry movement abroad.  Specifically, he mentioned that Americans leading seminars in Uganda during March 2009 asserted that LGBT individuals were actively “recruiting” in Uganda and acting as predators of Ugandan youth.  He suggested that these seminars led to a “hunt down the homosexuals” movement that inspired the proposed legislation.  Mr. Kaggwa provided brave and honest testimony that painted a dark picture of how sexual minorities survive in a very hostile climate. Furthermore, during the hearing, it was suggested that the First Family of the United States and the Congressional Black Caucus would be the most influential American voices that could speak out against the proposed legislation.  Otherwise, Ugandans and leaders in other African nations are in the best position to influence the trajectory of the proposed legislation.  In addition, it was explained that Western pressure on social issues can be counterproductive in Uganda because it often increases nationalism and anti-Western sentiments. HRC provided written testimony for the hearing (see our post from yesterday) and sent an alert to our members and supporters asking them to urge their members of Congress to sign on to letters to President Obama and Ugandan President Museveni.  We look forward to continuing to work with the Commission to address the situation in Uganda.

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