The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on Thursday said Pretoria should make its rejection of Uganda’s anti-gay “Draconian law clear and visible.
“We should join those who respect the rights and freedoms of every person to call for the repeal of this and all similar legislations and to follow good human rights practices in line with its commitments under international and regional laws,’’ SAHRC spokesperson Isaac Mangena said in a statement obtained by PANA.
He warned that the Ugandan law could endanger both Ugandan citizens and South Africans who work in or travel to Uganda.
Mangena noted that the struggle for these and other freedoms had been at the heart of liberation struggles throughout the African continent.
“The South African government should actively engage with African countries that seek to outlaw fundamental freedoms and human rights, including gay rights, to desist from such intended practice,’ ‘Mangena added.
Uganda’s anti-gay Bill, signed into law by a defiant President Yoweri Museveni has sent ripples around the world.
In the latest response, the World Bank on Thursday postponed a 90 million dollars loan to Uganda’s health system, following announcements by Norway and Denmark that they would hold back donations while the U.S. said it was reviewing ties.
The Bill strengthens already strict laws against homosexuals by imposing a life sentence for certain violations and making it a crime not to report anyone who breaks the law.
But South Africa which views itself as a champion of human rights on the continent, this week raised eyebrows when its ruling African National Congress (ANC) blocked a motion in Parliament condemning the Ugandan legislation.
The official opposition Democratic Alliance, which tabled the motion, expressed concern that South Africa “always resorts to silent diplomacy when instead it should be providing leadership on the continent.’’
“In terms of official government policy, the Department of International Relations and Co-operation remains non-committal about the issue, saying it will, through existing diplomatic channels, seek clarification on the matter from many capitals around the world’’.
It noted, however, that it believes that no persons “should be subjected to discrimination or violence on any ground, including the basis of sexual orientation’’.
Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor, also entered the fray, saying that South Africa’s Constitution clearly articulates its position on human rights, which includes lesbian, gay,
bisexual and trans-gender rights.
In 2011, South Africa introduced a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in support of gay rights.
Meanwhile, South Africa and Uganda have become embroiled in a spat over a gay rights activist who is wanted by Kampala.
Medical doctor Paul Semugoma, who has been living in South Africa since 2012, is a HIV/AIDS researcher for the Anova Health Institute and has lobbied against Kampala’s tough anti-homosexuality legislation.
Several human rights groups last week called on Pretoria not to expel Semugoma, saying he was “wanted’’ in Uganda for his stance on gay rights issues.
He has since been granted an exceptional skills work permit which will allow him to remain in South Africa for the next four years.