Labour body withdraws special status from sexual minorities

Thursday June 27 2019

In-charge. The permanent secretary  in the

In-charge. The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Mr Pius Bigirimana, addresses journalists in Kampala yesterday. PHOTO BY STEPHEN OTAGE 

By STEPHEN OTAGE

Kampala. The Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development has said the International Convention on Ending Violence in the World of Work has withdrawn the blanket vulnerability status that homosexuals and lesbians have been enjoying.

Mr Pius Bigirimana, the Gender Labour and Social Development ministry permanent secretary, told a press conference in Kampala yesterday that Uganda last week influenced International Labour Organisation (ILO) member states to allow individual states the powers to decide whether lesbians and homosexuals should be regarded as members of vulnerable groups because different ILO member states have cultures which are pro and against lesbianism and homosexuality.
Mr Bigirimana represented Uganda at the 108th ILO conference in Geneva.

“They wanted to come up with a special list of categories of people, including lesbians and homosexuals, who should be considered as vulnerable but we asked them about other categories of people suffering from cancer, HIV/Aids; [we argued that] this is discriminating against them,” he said.
Mr Bigirimana said their argument swayed other member states to agree to withdrawing the blanket status.

He said: “Paragraph 13 of the recommendations on the Convention on Ending Violence and Harassment in the World of Work had come up with a list of people who should be categorised as vulnerable and special needs who included lesbians homosexuals, HIV/Aids, and Persons With Disabilities (PWDs).

But we said this article is discriminatory. We asked what then happens to people who have cancer and also need special treatment, should they be left out?”
Mr Bigirimana said the convention is aimed at eliminating violence and harassment in work places.

“Violence in the world of work is a threat to dignity, security, health and well-being of everyone. However, until June 21 [last Friday] no international labour standard addressed violence and harassment as its primary aim,” he said.

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Violence in the world of work
Mr Bigirimana defined violence and harassment in the world of work as unacceptable behaviour, practices and threats aimed at inflicting physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm on victims.

Mr Bigirimana said the convention extends protection to all workers irrespective of their contractual status, including workers exercising authority of an employer, job seekers, trainees, interns and apprentices, and volunteers.

Mr Martin Wandera, the director of Labour, Employment and Occupational Safety and Health, said homosexuals and lesbians were deleted from the list of vulnerable groups because while other cultures tolerate them, others do not.

Basis
Argument. Whereas other countries may consider persons with disabilities as vulnerable groups, others do not. So are the homosexuals and lesbians whom some countries give special treatment while others do not. So it was left to individual countries to make their own laws looking at that - Mr Martin Wandera

sotage@ug.nationmedia.com

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