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UN Rights Chief Denounces Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay denounces Uganda's proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill as draconian and in breach of international human rights standards. She urges the Ugandan government to shelve the bill.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says if passed, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would bring Uganda into direct collision with established international human rights standards aimed at preventing discrimination.

The bill is due to be put before the Ugandan parliament later in January, perhaps as early as next week.

The High Commissioner says she welcomes recent statements by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and other senior members of the government that they might intervene to prevent the bill from becoming law.

The so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill prohibits any form of sexual relations between people of the same sex. It also prohibits the promotion or recognition of homosexual relations as a healthy or acceptable lifestyle in public institutions.

Pillay's spokesman, Rupert Colville, says the High Commissioner considers the bill to be blatantly discriminatory.

"This bill proposes draconian punishments for people alleged to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans-gendered-namely life imprisonment or, in some cases, the death penalty," he said. "It is extraordinary to find legislation like this being proposed more than 60 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The draft bill also includes a provision that could lead to a prison sentence of up to three years for anyone who fails to report within 24 hours the identities of any lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans-gendered individual who they know-including members of their own family."

Colville says the High Commissioner believes the bill, if passed would have a tremendously negative impact on the enjoyment of a range of fundamental human rights by homosexuals, lesbians and trans-gendered individuals.

He says it also would negatively affect other people who know or work with gay people, such as parents, teachers, medical professionals and HIV workers.

High Commissioner Pillay reminds the Ugandan government of its obligations under international human rights law. She warns this bill threatens to seriously damage the country's reputation in the international arena.