At 20 in November, the Ugandan parliament passed the Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act, also known as the Narcotics Act. An endorsement of draconian legislation, which aims to deter drug abuse by imposing cruelly imprisonment sentences - a simple-person conviction can end up in a cell for 25 years. The Narcotics Act is the fourth in a troubling series of laws passed in the past 12 months, which defy public health principles and show blatant disrespect for human dignity and rights. These laws target individuals who are already marginalized by society and most in need of health care and support: people are prostituting themselves to support their families; the LGBTI Group living with fear of suffering violence in the community; people hiding their HIV medicines from their own families and people struggling to cope with addiction and other illnesses. Perhaps the most harmful of all, parts of Ugandan society are interpreting these laws to justify violence and exclusion. Together, these four laws would amount to a full-fledged attack on public health and, if carried out, will result in rampant misuse of prison.
Approved in December 2013, the anti-pornography law prohibits pornography, word that includes any exposure of the sexual parts of a person in order to cause sexual excitement.
Soon after it was passed, the law provoked a terrifying response in Uganda, with dozens of reports of women being naked in public by angry mobs. In response to the violence, the cabinet went back "to revise" the law in late February, only a few weeks after presidential approval, but not before it endangered the lives of many women, particularly sex workers, throughout the country. Sources observing Parliament indicate that this review has not yet taken place.
The HIV Prevention and Management Act (HIV Law)
Uganda's HIV Act criminalizes transmission and "attempted transmission" of HIV. From a legal perspective, a broad language of law becomes particularly dangerous. Just about who is HIV positive HIV can be accused of attempting to transmit HIV - an accusation that may result in the dismissal of a person, evicted or beaten by a group of vigilantes. In a public health vision, decades of working with HIV shows that criminalization prevents people from being tested because they think they are unaware of their condition and that they can not be accused of HIV transmission.
The Anti-Homosexuality Act (LAH)
The LAH was approved in December of 2013, calling for an uproar by the international community, which only seemed to feed the fervor of Uganda's conservative leaders. In other words, the law proposed perpetual draconian punishment for people convicted of an act of homosexuality. Since then, many acts of violence have been blamed on the law, forcing hundreds of gays, lesbians and transsexuals into secret shelters. In a sweeping clause, the law also banned a wide range of activities considered to promote homosexuality. For example, in April, under the auspices of the LAH, a health project that offers HIV services for men who have sex with men was invaded by the police, as they were believed to be "youths in homosexuality." Although the Constitutional Court overturned LAH in August for technical reasons, the issue remains heated. Parliamentarians signed in support of a revised bill early in December are promising to pass a new anti-homosexuality law before Christmas.
The Narcotics Law
Marijuana possession: 25 years
Uganda's most recent legislative crackdown on public health, the Narcotics Act criminalizes possession of 10 illicit drugs to 25 years in prison. Trafficking - which includes everything from small sales to international exports - will be punished with life imprisonment. Even those who have never encountered illicit substance may find themselves caught in a trap. The law actually charges a sentence of 5 years imprisonment for non-disclosure of previous prescriptions for narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances (including those for pets and farm animals). Punitive laws like this push people away from social and health programs that are vital to drug management, preventing the transmission of HIV, and supporting people to live a full and productive life. "Drug use in Uganda is on the rise." We need an open environment in which to share information and talk about the addiction, said a representative of the Uganda Harm Reduction Network. "By further criminalizing drug use, this law pushes people into darkness. People are scared to talk and afraid to seek needed medical help because the government currently definitely puts the use of drugs as a matter of justice, not as a health issue. " Translated byAline Amorim
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