Watch Video of CHRGJ Panel: “Uganda and Beyond: Defending Global LGBT Rights without Undermining Them”
April 16, 2014

About the Event:

Uganda’s Anti Homosexuality Act, which was signed into law by President Museveni on February 24, 2014, is a particularly draconian law that has sparked global protest and outrage, including sanctions by Western governments that, ironically, may reduce services to vulnerable populations, including LGBT Ugandans.

CHRGJ is pleased to invite you to a discussion that will bring together some of the leading voices in the current debate over Uganda’s LGBT laws and the international community’s response to date. The panel will provide a platform to discuss a number of the difficult issues at play in the case of Uganda, which have relevance for other countries where similar legislation will be or has been passed. It will critically interrogate the role of the international community—including human rights advocates—in successfully challenging this law without further endangering the very population that needs protection, while also thoughtfully questioning the responsibilities of the international community to protect Uganda’s LGBT population without causing them further harm. Some of the questions that will be addressed include:


According to IGLHRC, more than two thirds of African countries now have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. In many countries those who “challenge sexual or gender norms face arbitrary arrest and detention, physical attacks, blackmail or extortion, and discrimination in the areas of employment, education, and access to health care.”

American evangelicals have been accused of inciting homophobia in Uganda and elsewhere in the region, drumming up support for the bill’s passage. At the same time, some have blamed western governments’ criticisms of the bill for fueling populist arguments that supported the bill’s passage in an effort to assert independence from colonial powers.

As Museveni allegedly positions himself for sole candidacy for President in 2016, some have seen this as a clever play on charges of imperialism—a successful political tactic throughout the continent. A recent IGLHRC press release quotes Museveni as accusing “arrogant and careless Western groups” of trying to recruit Ugandan children into homosexuality and citing the belief that Western homosexuals have targeted poor Ugandans who then “prostitute” themselves for the money, an allegation repeated by the bill’s Ugandan defenders.


Introduction: Margaret Satterthwaite  is Professor of Clinical Law at NYU School of Law, Faculty Director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, and Director of the Global Justice Clinic. Satterthwaite’s recent scholarship includes Gender, National Security and Counter-Terrorism: Human Rights Perspectives (co-edited with Jayne Huckerby, 2013), and The Legal Regime Governing Transfer of Persons in the Fight Against Terrorism, in Counter-Terrorism and International Law: Meeting the Challenges (2013). Follow her on Twitter @SatterthwaiteML.

Moderator: Lonnie Isabel is an Associate Professor and Director of the International Reporting program at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism. He was formerly the deputy managing editor of Newsday, where he supervised the national, foreign, state, Washington, health and science staffs. At Newsday, he also edited and supervised Dele Olojede’s Pulitzer Prize winning series on the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide. Isabel serves on the advisory boards of the International Reporting Project and the International Media Institute of India in Delhi.

Clare Byarugaba is the co-coordinator at the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law in Uganda, which was established in October 2009 in response to the tabling of the now notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill in the Ugandan Parliament. The Coalition now includes 51 Ugandan civil society organizations, including human rights, feminist, HIV focused, LGBTI, media and refugee organizations and groups. Its primary objectives are to pro-actively contribute to elaborating a positive sexual rights agenda for Uganda and to strengthen the capacity of civil society to engage in and contribute to these debates.

Wade McMullen is the Staff Attorney for the International Strategic Litigation Unit at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center). McMullen brings high impact human rights cases with a focus on non-discrimination and creating an enabling environment for human rights defenders. Previously McMullen was the first Donald M. Wilson Fellow at the RFK Center, and received his J.D. from the New York University School of Law, where he was a researcher for the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions. Follow him on Twitter @wademc.

Marianne Mollmann is Director of Programs at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in New York City. Mollmann previously was a senior policy advisor with Amnesty International’s International Secretariat in London where she focused on freedom of expression and sexual rights issues, and a women’s rights researcher and advocate with Human Rights Watch in New York. Mollmann specializes in sexual rights, reproductive rights, women in conflict, economic rights, and anti-discrimination. Follow her on Twitter @cluelesscamper.

Pamela Spees is a senior staff attorney in the international human rights program at the Center for Constitutional Rights. She has a background in international criminal and human rights law with a gender focus, as well as criminal trial practice. She serves as lead counsel on several of CCR’s cases and initiatives including, Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Lively, a case brought by a Ugandan umbrella group of LGBTI organizations against a U.S. based anti-gay evangelist, for his role in the persecution of LGBTI people in Uganda. Follow her on Twitter @PamSpees.

Francis Ssekandi is Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School. Born in Uganda, Ssekandi served as a Judge of the High Court of Uganda, and later Justice of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Uganda. He has held a wide variety of prestigious legal positions, including Deputy Director in the United Nations’ Office of Legal Affairs, General Counsel of the African Development Bank, and Judge on the World Bank Administrative Tribunal. He has taught at several African and U.S. universities and has published on law and development, human rights, and good governance.


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