Panel on Sexual Minority Rights in Uganda and India (January 2010)


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On January 22, 2010, the Nathanson Centre co-sponsored a panel called “Sexual Minority Rights in Post-Colonial Contexts: A Panel on Transnational Human Rights in Uganda and India.” The panel compared recent developments regarding sexual minorities in two post-colonial settings: an anti-homosexuality private members’ bill before the Parliament of Uganda, and a decision of the Delhi High Court striking down India’s anti-sodomy laws as unconstitutional.

While sexual minorities in many states remain subject to both prosecution and persecution, attempts to draw on transnational human rights to challenge this mistreatment have been increasingly successful. The court decision overturning India’s anti-sodomy laws is a case in point.

In several post-colonial states, however, sexual minority rights are framed by some local opponents as foreign impositions that are incompatible with cultural practices and norms in traditionally conservative societies.

At the same time, the existing criminal law provisions prohibiting same-sex sex in many post-colonial states could themselves be understood as foreign impositions that can be traced back to British colonial law. Moreover, some attempts to further restrict sexual minority rights in post-colonial settings have been prompted partly by advocacy groups located in Northern affluent states. For example, it appears that US-based evangelical groups played a role in the drafting of Uganda’s “Anti-Homosexuality Bill”.

The panel explored the complex role that transnational legal norms and transnational advocacy efforts play in the context of sexual minority rights in these two very distinct post-colonial settings.

The panel was organized and chaired by Professor Sean Rehaag. Presentatiions were made by Ashley Audet (JD student, Osgoode), Pritam Baruah (NUJS, India), Chris Dolan (Makere University, Uganda), and Craig Scott (Osgoode).

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