Uganda President Yoweri Museveni has reportedly signed into law a bill that could impose harsh restrictions on organizations working with people considered to be social outcasts, including LGBTI people, sex workers, drug users and those involved with abortions.
The Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) pointed out “three thorny issues” with the bill, which remains unchanged from when it was passed in the fall:
- Refusal of registration of an organisation on the basis that its objectives are “in contravention of the law.” This provision “is specifically worrying because it has affected LGBTI organisations before. The Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) refused to register Sexual Minorities Uganda on the basis that its name and objectives showed a connection to work among people whose conduct is criminalised. This gives an indication of how Ugandan institutions may interpret the provision on contravention of the law.”
- Provisions on “special obligations of NGOs,” which could “easily be used to harass organisations working on LGBTI and other issues that are regarded as socially unacceptable.”
- Grounds for dissolution by a court. “As regards the powers of the court to dissolve an NGO for among other reasons ‘threatening national security’, and ‘gross violations of the laws of Uganda’ both of which concepts are not defined, this may put organisations at the risk of being accused of ‘serving foreign interests’ and therefore ‘threatening national security.’ Similarly the ground of ‘gross violations of the laws of Uganda’ is not defined and leaves one wondering what ‘gross’ implies. They will leave such organisations liable to be closed by court or to flimsy accusation brought before them and thus disrupting their operations.”
Opponents of the new law are considering the option of challenging its constitutionality in court.
LGBTI rights advocate Melanie Nathan stated in her “O-blah-dee” blog:
“We cannot stress enough how dangerous this law is. And what makes it worse is that Museveni has just been re elected, through what many believe to be a rigged and fraudulent election process, extending his 30 year reign over Uganda. …
“The government of Uganda, demonizing its NGO’s as agents of foreign governments, has long feared and sought ways to silence what it perceives as outside influence from Western countries. Indeed foreign governmental aid, foundations and donors provide funding for the operations and programs of NGO’s, thereby assisting in the issues that NGO’s pursue.” …
“Warning: Every organization operating in Uganda, in association with organizations in Uganda, sending funds to Uganda, placing resources in the hands of Ugandans must re evaluate their positions considering the new NGO ACT of 2016 – or alternatively immediately support those who will challenge this law before publication and implementation. For obvious reasons the window of opportunity is very small.”