Joshua Berkman - Associate Director of Media and Marketing - 212.792.2893
New York, NY; January 8, 2010—In response to egregious human rights violations against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals in Uganda, AJWS has established the URGENT LGBT UGANDA FUND. The fund will support Ugandan grassroots organizations working to defend the rights of sexual minorities and to defeat a dangerous piece of proposed legislation—"The Anti-Homosexuality Bill."
The bill seeks to broaden the criminalization of homosexuality and penalize supporters and funders of LGBT programs and rights. The passage of this bill would severely impede human rights and development groups' efforts to ensure the safety and security of the Ugandan LGBT community. It would also make it extremely difficult for groups to implement effective prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. Moreover, the bill violates the freedom of every person to live a safe and dignified life—a core value that unifies all of AJWS's work and is central to the Jewish experience.
"AJWS's work is propelled by a very basic value: the essential dignity of every human being," AJWS president Ruth Messinger said. "In the spirit of b'tselem elohim—the understanding that each person is made in the divine image—we recognize that every human life is of equal value.
"We are especially reminded of this in supporting the work of LGBT communities around the globe."
AJWS is part of a growing progressive, faith-based coalition committed to global justice and has joined with leading advocacy organizations and international human rights funders in calling on the U.S. government to swiftly condemn Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill. AJWS has also taken the lead in calling upon Jewish and other faith-based leaders to sign onto congressional letters to President Barack Obama and Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. These letters are currently being circulated by the House of Representatives Equality Caucus.
As an international development and human rights organization, AJWS funds more than 400 grassroots organizations in 36 countries throughout Africa, Asia and the Americas—including many organizations working to protect the rights of sexual minorities. AJWS has been standing in solidarity with LGBT communities for a decade. But as the global trend of discrimination and persecution against LGBT people intensifies, the need to respond by safeguarding human rights has become all the more urgent.
In recent months, AJWS has been listening to and working with its grantees in Uganda to strategically and effectively advance human rights in the face of growing insecurity and violence. The new URGENT LGBT UGANDA FUND will allow AJWS to continue this work as successfully and productively as possible.
"Through the creation of the URGENT LGBT UGANDA FUND, in conjunction with our broader advocacy efforts, AJWS is taking the lead in the Jewish community and in the broader faith-based community to ensure that all people—regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity—can realize their full, true selves," Messinger said. "No one should live in fear, and it is our duty to address these injustices now and always."