Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 27

FEATURE

Tales From Uganda: Protecting LGBT Rights
By Timothy MB Farrell

A

few years ago, I moved from the Pacific
Northwest to Washington, D.C. Since then
I have met a lot of international businesspeople
and diplomats and have been honored with
invitations to several embassies.
No matter whether it's in a professional, philanthropic, or recreational
setting, I am particularly interested in meeting people from Africa
since I lived there for three years in the 1960s (Rhodesia during the
Unilateral Declaration of Independence, South Africa, and Ghana) and
visited numerous times as an adult. I hitchhiked through the Rif
Mountains near Chefchaouen, Morocco, in the '80s, went on wildlife
safaris in Botswana's Okavango Delta and hiked around Zimbabwe's
Victoria Falls in the '90s, and windsurfed mast-high waves off Cape
Town's Bloubergstrand in the 2000s.
One of my goals is to work alongside other legal professionals to
make things better for people in African countries. Recently I learned
about Probono Publico: a Ugandan nongovernmental organization
(NGO) established in 2017 to promote human rights and access to
justice for those who are most at risk, including LGBT people, sex
workers, young girls, women, and political activists. The NGO specifically provides free legal aid in several areas of the law: criminal, constitutional, land, and gender-based law. Unfortunately, it's limited by
both financial and technical logistics.
Here is the scene in Uganda. Article 31 of the constitution forbids
marriage between persons of the same sex. The constitution stops
there on the issue, but penal code sections 145 and 146 state that
having "carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature"
is punishable by life in prison, and an attempt "to commit unnatural
offences" is punishable as a felony with up to seven years in prison.
The code is a bit vague on the carnal knowledge issue, and the constitution does not directly forbid gay and lesbian sex, so there is room
for advocacy on behalf of clients. Few members of the local bar are
willing to take such cases, so Probono Publico's existence is kind of a
big deal in that country. For example, what does a lesbian woman do
when she wants a divorce but cannot assert her homosexuality as a
reason for the divorce? (Uganda does not have no-fault divorces.) That

Shea tree in field, near Lira, Uganda, David Pluth/Getty Images

is one type of case that Probono Publico takes to make sure that LBGT
folks do not end up imprisoned for life.
Uganda has been cited as one of the most dangerous places for LGBT
people. In late 2017, The Guardian listed the country as one of "the most
difficult places in the world to be gay or transgender." When the Ugandan
Parliament passed the 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Act, which included penalties of up to life imprisonment, the United Nations agency leading the
global HIV/AIDS response said it would have "serious human rights implications." The Ugandan Constitutional Court later overturned the legislation. However, according to my friends at Probono Publico, lobbyists are
looking to re-introduce a similar law, and Probono Publico is doing its
own lobbying to educate legislators on the effects such laws can have
on clients.
Probono Publico has dedicated many of its resources to fighting for the
promotion of equal rights. The NGO has already established relationships
with organizations like Barefoot Law, whose main objective is to give
people online access to Ugandan law. Probono Publico has also worked
with the U.S. Department of State on its AIDS initiatives. But having met
with some of the principals, I found they would like to expand their
network and partner with local U.S. bar associations, human rights organizations, law firms, and other groups that have a passion for promoting
human rights generally and LGBT rights in particular.
Uganda is one of the most beautiful places on the planet and would be
an excellent place for someone studying the subject as it relates to Africa
or donating their time to work on this issue. The country has a common
law English system, so Washington lawyers would find researching and
understanding the law fairly easy. Because so few local lawyers are willing
to look at these issues, the impact of a visiting Washington lawyer would
be enormous on the individual clients served by groups like Probono
Publico. On the other hand, Washington lawyers willing to host human
rights lawyers from Uganda and teach them about the U.S. system and
LBGT advocacy in this country would find enthusiastic advocates who
would love to work with like-minded people and enterprises.
Anyone interested in learning more or getting involved can check out the
NGO's website at pro-bonopublico.org.
Timothy MB Farrell, corporate counsel to MBI Health Services, LLC, has over
20 years of experience in health care law.

MAY 2020

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WASHINGTON LAWYER

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http://www.pro-bonopublico.org

Washington Lawyer - May 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - May 2020

LETTER TO MEMBERS ON COVID-19 CRISIS
FROM OUR PRESIDENT
PRACTICE MANAGEMENT
ABA DELEGATE’S CORNER
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
REVOLUTIONIZING THE BUSINESS OF LAW
DIGITAL JUSTICE
ADVANCING THE HUMAN RIGHTS C AUSE ACROSS BORDERS
TAKING THE STAND
ON FURTHER REVIEW
MEMBER SPOTLIGHT
WORTH READING
ATTORNEY BRIEFS
SPEAKING OF ETHICS
DISCIPLINARY SUMMARIES
THE PRO BONO EFFECT
SPECIAL SECTION: THE REVOLUTIONARY C RYSTAL EASTMAN
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 1
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 2
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 3
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 4
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - LETTER TO MEMBERS ON COVID-19 CRISIS
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - FROM OUR PRESIDENT
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - PRACTICE MANAGEMENT
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 8
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - ABA DELEGATE’S CORNER
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 11
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - REVOLUTIONIZING THE BUSINESS OF LAW
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 13
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 14
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 15
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 16
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 17
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - DIGITAL JUSTICE
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 19
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 20
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 21
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 22
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 23
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - ADVANCING THE HUMAN RIGHTS C AUSE ACROSS BORDERS
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 25
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 26
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 27
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 28
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 29
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - TAKING THE STAND
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 31
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - ON FURTHER REVIEW
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 33
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - MEMBER SPOTLIGHT
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 35
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 36
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 37
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - WORTH READING
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 39
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 40
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - ATTORNEY BRIEFS
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - SPEAKING OF ETHICS
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 43
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - DISCIPLINARY SUMMARIES
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 45
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - THE PRO BONO EFFECT
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 47
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - SPECIAL SECTION: THE REVOLUTIONARY C RYSTAL EASTMAN
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 49
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 50
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 51
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 52
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