‘The proposals before the Ugandan Parliament concerning homosexuality and gay rights are a violation of international human rights conventions and should be withdrawn’, said Dr David N Jones, President of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), as he prepared for the annual United Nations Social Work Day in New York. He was supporting statements already made by UN global leaders and eminent human rights spokespeople.
IFSW has followed with concern the debate arising from the bill before the Ugandan Parliament concerning homosexuality. IFSW has consulted the Chairperson of the National Association of Social Workers of Uganda and social work leaders in Africa. IFSW has also followed debates between social workers and social work educators in Africa. We recognise that there are different views.
‘IFSW respects the territorial integrity of national governments and member organisations and does not usually seek to engage in debates about policies or legislation within individual countries, David Jones continued. ‘However the regional and global risks to human rights arising from this legislation are such that a comment is required in this case.’
IFSW respects and upholds the international conventions and treaties which explicitly recognise the right of all individuals to give expression to their sexual orientation, among many other basic rights. These global conventions and policies have been developed by common agreement and in the light of experience and research and are reflected in the global ethical principles of social work, endorsed by IFSW and the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW). No further justification of the right to freedom of sexual orientation is needed or appropriate. We note that the United Nations Secretary General, the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Bishop Desmond Tutu and other world leaders have all criticised and advised against the legislation on these grounds. The world body of social workers endorses those statements.
We note the concern in Uganda to respond to sexual abuse of children and young people and of vulnerable adults. IFSW entirely endorses this objective and would be pleased to work with the Ugandan government and other parties, including the National Association of Social Workers of Uganda, to draft and implement legislation to enforce the highest standards of child protection. We note that children can be at risk of sexual abuse for many reasons and from many quarters. We note that the abuse of girls and young women by older men has been the subject of heated debate in many African countries, as well as the abuse of boys and young men. Both evils must be confronted.
Effective child protection legislation should deal firmly and unequivocally with all forms of ill-treatment of children and young people, without fear or favour and regardless of the status of the men and women involved. Social workers are often the lead professionals when such action is taken and fully understand the legislation and intervention required.
However all international policy and academic research make clear that the expression of sexual orientation is a human right. It is misguided and an abuse of human rights to imply that the expression of sexual orientation and ill-treatment of children are the same or related. They are not.
‘IFSW calls on the Ugandan Parliament to reject this legislation’, concluded David Jones, ‘including its cruel and severe penalties, including the death penalty, targeted at friends and family members of gay people as well as gay people themselves. We offer our global experience to assist the Ugandan people to strengthen their child protection legislation, if they consider this appropriate.’
Statement by Desmond Tutu