Anti-LGBT Laws Backlash: 10 U.S. Senators Want Uganda, Nigeria, Barred From AGOA Benefits

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Uganda's Yoweri Museveni signed anti-LGBT law Feb. 24

Ten U.S. Senators, led by Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) have called on President Obama to exclude Uganda and Nigeria from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) program that allows duty-free exports of some products to the U.S. as punishment for anti-LGBT laws introduced by the two countries.

The senators in a letter dated July 14 to President Obama wrote in part: “We are deeply concerned over a growing trend of laws and proposed legislation targeting LGBT individuals in Africa, which violates the standards set forth in the African Growth and Opportunity Act. We therefore ask that your Administration review Nigeria and Uganda’s eligibility for AGOA’s trade preference and, if it is determined that those countries are not ‘making continual progress’ in meeting the statute’s requirements, that you take steps to revoke AGOA eligibility to Nigeria and Uganda. We believe that the discriminatory anti-LGBT laws in those countries represent a clear violation of human rights and hope that the interagency process charged with AGOA’s annual review will make this recommendation.”

Authorized in 2000, AGOA offers tangible incentives for African countries to expand trade, stimulate economic growth, and integrate into the global economy. To be eligible for AGOA a country is barred from engaging in "gross violations of internationally recognized human rights."

Both Uganda and Nigeria have enacted "harsh and inhumane LGBT policies that violate internationally recognized human rights protecting LGBT people. These laws and policies severely limit an LGBT person’s access to health care, housing, and education, as well as freedom of expression," according to Senator Murphy.

Other senators signing on to the letter are: Tammy Baldwin; Martin Heinrich; Richard Blumenthal; Barbara Boxer; Al Franken; Kirsten Gillibrand; Edward Markey; Sherrod Brown; and, Mark E. Udall.

Most African presidents will be attending the U.S.-Africa Leaders' Summit next week hosted by President Obama in Washington next week.

Separately, a campaign has been launched on Change.org to have Uganda's Yoweri Museveni dis-invited from the summit.

The full text of the letter by the U.S. Senators appear below:

The President

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We write with deep concern over a growing trend of laws and proposed legislation targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals in Africa. These laws, combined with the growing public vitriol by government officials and the media, threaten to usher in an era of widespread oppression of the LGBT community in many African countries. We believe the enforcement of these laws would be a human rights abuse in violation of the standards set forth in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Already this year, both Nigeria and Uganda have enacted laws that impose harsh penalties for homosexual activity and activism on behalf of LGBT people. Despite strong opposition from the United States and many other nations, Nigeria enacted the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act in January, and one month later, Uganda’s President signed into law the Anti-Homosexuality Act. In Nigeria, the legislation immediately triggered an outbreak of violent anti-gay attacks.

As you know, Uganda and Nigeria are among the countries eligible for AGOA, which has allowed for duty-free treatment of certain imports from sub-Saharan African countries since 2000. Congress passed this law with a clear intention to make the benefits of this non-reciprocal agreement contingent on these countries’ commitment to human rights. AGOA states that a country is only eligible for preferential trade status if that country “does not engage in gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”

The jurisprudence in the area of international human rights supports respect of sexual orientation and gender identity as human rights. We therefore ask that your Administration review Nigeria and Uganda’s eligibility for AGOA’s trade preference and, if it is determined that those countries are not “making continual progress” in meeting the statute’s requirements, that you take steps to revoke AGOA eligibility to Nigeria and Uganda in accordance with 19 U.S. C. §2466a(a)(3). We believe that the discriminatory anti-LGBT laws in those countries represent a clear violation of human rights and hope that the interagency process charged with AGOA’s annual review will make this recommendation. We further ask that you not restore eligibility until these beneficiary countries have taken steps to eliminate harsh penalties for LGBT persons.

As the International Trade Commission (ITC) correctly stated when AGOA was first passed, “Congress never intended AGOA to be a blank check for all African countries, without regard to performance. It was meant to offer tangible incentives for African governments to improve their political and economic governance, not to underwrite poor policies.” Some of the leaders who promote the benefits of AGOA in their respective countries, including Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, are the same leaders now presiding over the deterioration of LGBT rights in Africa. By revoking AGOA eligibility, the United States will be sending a clear message that countries must choose between enjoying the benefits of AGOA and violating the human rights of LGBT individuals. We thank you for your attention to this matter and urge you to act swiftly.

Sincerely,

Christopher S. Murphy, United States Senator

Tammy Baldwin, United States Senator

Martin Heinrich, United States Senator

Richard Blumenthal, United States Senator

Barbara Boxer, United States Senator

Al Franken, United States Senator

Kirsten Gillibrand, United States Senator

Edward Markey, United States Senator

Sherrod Brown, United States Senator

Mark E. Udall, United States Senator

 

 

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