Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has revealed that she wrote to the Ugandan Minister for Foreign Affairs Sam Kutesa on February 26, to express her objection to the passage of the nation’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
According to Gay Star News, she wrote,
Honorable minister, I would like to raise Australia’s serious concerns with Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill, which was signed into law on 24 February 2014.
While Australia respects Uganda’s sovereignty, we are concerned that the 24 February law undermines a number of human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly and the prohibition of discrimination.
These rights are enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Uganda has ratified, and reflected in Uganda’s constitution. Australia believes that human rights should be respected without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Australia has raised these concerns with Uganda, including with you, on a number of occasions since the law was introduced to parliament in 2009. I call now for Uganda to reconsider the law and to exercise the utmost restraint in its enforcement.
Her writing of the letter was made known by Australian Attorney General George Brandis in a Senate estimates committee, after Greens Senator Christine Milne asked what the Australian government had done in regards to Uganda.
Both Milne and Australian Government Senator Ian MacDonald also inquired about Australia’s plans regarding its aid to Uganda, in light of the fact that several other countries have reduced their financial support.
Assistant secretary Adam McCarthy, speaking on behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Africa Branch, said that “It is important to point out that our aid program to Uganda is quite modest. It totals about $7.5 million [about $6.7 million USD]per annum.
“Unlike some other aid programs that involve direct budgetary support to the Ugandan government—and that occurs in some cases—ours is really targeted at the individual level. It involves scholarships under the Australia Awards and some civil society and global program funding.
“It is directed at the level of individuals. For instance, a large component of that would be made up of Ugandan students who are currently in Australia under Australia Award grants at various stages … None goes direct government to government.”
Senator Milne also brought up the legal status of any LGBT Ugandans who might seek asylum in Australia, asking if they would be considered legitimate refugees, but Brandis replied that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection should be the office to answer that question.
Although Australia still lacks marriage equality, civil unions or domestic partnerships are available in six out of its eight states, and the federal government passed LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination laws in August 2013.