South Africa’s Navi Pillay

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has urged the Ugandan government to shelve its “draconian” draft bill on homosexuality that is due to be put before the Ugandan parliament later in January.

South African-born Pillay said in a statement that the proposed law would bring the country into a direct collision with established international human rights standards aimed at preventing discrimination.

“The bill proposes draconian punishments for people alleged to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered – namely life imprisonment or, in some cases, the death penalty,” Pillay 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 – as well as many subsequent international laws and standards – made it clear this type of discrimination is unacceptable.”

Pillay welcomed recent statements by Uganda’s president and other senior members of the government, suggesting it might intervene to stop the private member’s bill from becoming law.

“This is the only responsible course of action for a government to take in such circumstances,” she said.

The High Commissioner said the bill clearly breaches international human rights standards, as it is “blatantly discriminatory,” adding that, if passed, the bill would have “a tremendously negative impact on the enjoyment of a range of fundamental human rights by homosexuals, lesbians and transgendered individuals, as well as on parents, teachers, landlords, human rights defenders, medical professionals and HIV workers.”

“I would like to remind the Ugandan Government of the country’s obligations under international human rights law,” Pillay said. “Uganda is a party to the core human rights treaties and has generally had a good track record of cooperation with the various international human rights mechanisms. This bill threatens to seriously damage the country’s reputation in the international arena.”

She also noted that the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights also contains strong language against discrimination.

While the bill has been slammed by a number of Western countries, the South African government has not made any comment on the proposed legislation.

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