HRC38: ID with the Independent Expert on SOGI and the Special Rapporteur freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

UN Human Rights Council: 38th regular session
Item 3: Clustered interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

Oral statement

Mr. President,

On behalf of DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project), I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to Mr. Clément Voulé for his appointment as UN Special Rapporteur. We welcome his first report, including his analysis that patterns of attacks against the civic space around the globe have resulted in serious limitations to the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. This holds true for LGBTI persons, defenders and organisations, who are particularly vulnerable to physical attacks and at risk of arrest, detention and harassment, both from the authorities and non-state actors.
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As highlighted by Independent Expert Victor Madrigal-Borloz, deeply entrenched stigma and prejudice on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, reinforced by discriminatory laws and regulations foster a climate where hate speech, violence and discrimination are condoned and perpetrated with impunity. The media often amplify and disseminate messages that foster this climate.
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Across the East and Horn of Africa, violent illegal acts by police and other actors targeting the LGBTI community are all too frequent. In Tanzania, as President Magufuli’s rule has taken on a moralistic tone, the situation of LGBTI persons and HRDs working on SOGI issues has become increasingly precarious. On 17 October 2017, a legal consultation organised by local NGO CHESA and South Africa-based ISLA was raided by police in Dar es Salaam. CHESA was immediately suspended. The status of the investigation, the legal status of the case, and CHESA’s registration status remain unclear. The case against CHESA has no legal basis, as “promotion of homosexuality,” of which members have been accused, is not an offence under Tanzanian law. As one HRD DefendDefenders interviewed last month said: “Our existence bothers some people.
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In Uganda, in the last few years, Pride Uganda celebrations have been shut down, affecting Ugandans’ rights to peaceful association and assembly. In a recent instance, celebrations to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia were shut down by Uganda’s Minister of Ethics and Integrity.

We call on the Tanzanian and Ugandan authorities to reverse course and fully respect freedom of peaceful assembly and association, including of LGBTI persons, defenders and organisations and to publicly commit to bringing impunity for acts of violence and discrimination against them to an end.

Thank you for your attention.


Human Rights Defender of the month: Esther Tawiah

In Ghana, Esther Tawiah is one of the loudest voices for women empowerment and gender. It is also why she is one of the most loathed. Born and raised in New-Tafo in the country’s eastern region, Esther grew up surrounded by a culture that frowned at the idea of women participating in public affairs, and witnessed firsthand, the backlash those who dared to challenge that cultural norm faced.

“I grew up in a society where ageism and sexism were so entrenched. As a young person, you weren’t supposed to give your opinion on public issues, especially if you were a woman. Women who dared to speak up were caricatured and branded as frustrated, unmarriageable prostitutes, all designed to shut them up,” she says.