Tuesday, March 30, 2010

SA GLAAD Condemns Continued Silence Of SA Govt On Uganda Issue

SA GLAAD condemns in the strongest possible terms the complete and continued silence of the South African government on the issue of human rights and the Gay Genocide Bill being debated in Uganda's Parliament.

South Africa is a country whose Constitution promises dignity, equality and legal protections to everyone - including GLBTI people, but whose government has thus far completely ignored all requests from human rights advocacy groups in South Africa to speak out on this issue, and to add its voice to the weight of condemnation from those countries who are concerned with the welfare of the human rights of the Ugandan people.

In the past three years, South Africa's government has not said a single word on the issue surrounding the human rights violations of Ugandan GLBTI people, or even so much as admitted that there is a severe human rights problem in Uganda. We would like to point out once again that South Africa shamefully refused to sign the UN Declaration to Decriminalize Homosexuality in December 2008 for reasons of "having principles". Indeed, we are still waiting to hear the SA government admit what these "principles" are.

Why has President Zuma, who visited Uganda this past week, and consulted with Uganda's President Yowri Musseveni, and even addressed Uganda's Parliament - not condemned either the Ugandan Genocide Bill or the shocking oppression under which GLBTI Ugandans live daily?

Activists have been asking for months why South Africa's government has been ignoring our questions and requests to speak out on the Ugandan issue. Email, telephone and fax campaigns by SA GLAAD and other groups and members of the public have gone unanswered and unacknowledged, while our government has given us, repeatedly, reason to doubt their enthusiasm for gay rights and equalities enshrined in our Constitution.

In October 2009 SA GLAAD ran a telephone campaign to call the Presidential Hotline to ask President Zuma to speak out on this issue - which, like earlier email campaigns, produced no discernible results - and no acknowledgement from the government or the Presidency.

The Bill in question, which is still being debated in the Ugandan Parliament - and will by default condemn millions of innocent Ugandans to death simply for being born gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex - and simply for being a favorite scapegoat and target for the hatred of an increasingly virulent homophobic agenda in Uganda. Uganda goes so far in its official policy of hatred that it refuses to recognize the clear differentiation between Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex people - but classifies and condemns them all as homosexual - and while the current law prescribes prison terms for such people - the new law will codify the death sentence.

This legislation will also effectively turn many heterosexual people into criminals just for not reporting the existence of GLBTI colleagues, neighbors, clients, family members and friends to the authorities, and for "harboring criminals". Much of the new law also seems focused on the State confiscating the property of such "criminals", which leads us to question the motives behind such a law.

This bill has over the past six months drawn the ire and outright condemnation of churches, companies, advocacy groups, the UN, and governments from countries all over the world - except the most prosperous and influential country in Southern Africa.

Mr Zuma, your speech in the Ugandan parliament mentioned unity and "moving closer" to Uganda. You mentioned nothing about the cruel policies being enforced by the Ugandan government - which violate human rights by every definition of the term. You seem to want the people of South Africa to believe that stronger ties and even unity with impoverished neighbors who have inferior concepts of human rights and inadequate perceptions of the value of human life - are more important than the very principles which you seem keen on trading away - and that this is somehow a good thing for all concerned!

We are offended by the hypocrisy of a government whose Ministers call art "pornographic" and "contrary to nation-building" and which seeks to limit freedom of expression on the pretext of "morality" - and yet when an opportunity to prove its "morality" presents itself, sides with abusers of human rights and those who glorify acts of terror - and shows solidarity with those who commit crimes against humanity.

We are profoundly shocked by the sheer hypocrisy of those who claim moral high ground - and trade human lives and dignity for the sake of power and wealth and political expediency.

It is becoming abundantly clear that people who live in South Africa need to ask themselves what the ANC's new "morality vote", the government's support of groups such as the NILC, its failure to live up to its vocal claims of "morality", and its failure to speak out in defence of human rights - may mean for the future of those very human rights in our own country.

More than just the opportunity to speak out against these stark crimes against humanity has gone down the tubes, Mr Zuma - South Africa's human rights record has as well.

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