THERE has been a dramatic escalation of diplomatic pressure over Uganda’s anti-gay laws, with Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop confirming on Friday that she has sent in the Australian High Commissioner to Uganda to make “strong representations”.

Bishop’s intervention occurred after Labor’s foreign affairs spokesperson Tanya Plibersek earlier in the week condemned Uganda and demanded action from the Abbott government.

“Labor unequivocally condemns Uganda’s new anti-gay laws that reportedly include life sentences for gay sex & same-sex marriage,” Plibersek said.

“These laws deny the LGBTI people of Uganda the most basic human rights. We call on the Abbott Government to register Australia’s protest in the strongest terms.”

Bishop told the Star Observer: “The Australian Government recognises that everyone is entitled to respect, dignity and legal protection regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity and all people are entitled to the rights and protections afforded by international human rights frameworks.

“I am concerned by Uganda’s ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’ signed into law on 24 February and I have written to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uganda to raise these concerns. I  have also directed the Australian High Commissioner to Uganda, based in Nairobi, to make strong representations.”

She also advised that this was not the first time Australia has made diplomatic efforts with an African nation regarding the treatment its LGBTI citizens.

“The Australian Government is also concerned with Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act. Australia raised these concerns with the Nigerian Government during the formation of the same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill and during Nigeria’s Universal Periodic Review,” she said.

Upon hearing of the increase in diplomatic pressure, Plibersek told the Star Observer: “I welcome the action the Government has now taken.”

The Star Observer also understands that Labor is planning a motion in the Senate this week calling on the Abbott Government to take all available steps to “support and defend the human rights of LGBTI people around the world” and to “support a Commonwealth Charter which defends LGBTI rights in accordance with international law in all Commonwealth countries”.

Rainbow Labor Float including Stephen Jones, Tanya Plibersek, Louise Pratt, Verity Firth, Penny Wong, Anthony Albanese and Sam Dastyari and Jenny McAllister

Rainbow Labor Float including Stephen Jones, Tanya Plibersek, Louise Pratt, Verity Firth, Penny Wong, Anthony Albanese, Sam Dastyari and Penny Sharp

The Senate motion is planned to single out the Kaleidoscope Human Rights Foundation, whose patron is former High Court judge Michael Kirby. The motion states that Labor “recognises the efforts of activists and advocates internationally seeking to advance the human rights of LGBTI people including the work of the Australian Kaleidoscope Human Rights Foundation in advancing the human rights of LGBTI people in the Asia Pacific region.”

Meanwhile, both Labor and Liberal were well represented at Mardi Gras with strong turnouts on their respective floats. Coincidentally Rainbow Labor were wearing shirts emblazoned “Love is not a crime”, relating to the 30-year anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in NSW.


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