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Uganda Parliament Takes Up Anti-Gay Bill Adding Death Sentence and Bans on Free Speech

Jim Burroway

October 14th, 2009

Uganda’s Parliament took up the new Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 today, giving the bill its first reading. Bills undergo three readings before becoming law. BTB previewed the bill last month when we received a surreptitious copy dated April 20. According to the pro-government New Vision newspaper, the bill appears unchanged from the earlier draft:

Aggravated homosexuality will be punished by death, according to a new bill tabled in Parliament yesterday. …A person commits aggravated homosexuality when the victim is a person with disability or below the age of 18, or when the offender is HIV-positive. The bill thus equates aggravated homosexuality to aggravated defilement among people of different sexes, which also carries the death sentence.

The Bill, entitled the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009, also states that anyone who commits the offence of homosexuality will be liable to life imprisonment. This was already the case under the current Penal Code Act. However, it gives a broader definition of the offence of homosexuality. A person charged with the offence will have to undergo a mandatory medical examination to ascertain his or her HIV status. The bill further states that anybody who “attempts to commit the offence” is liable to imprisonment for seven years. The same applies to anybody who “aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage in acts of homosexuality” or anybody who keeps a house or room for the purpose of homosexuality.

The bill also proposes stiff sentences for people promoting homosexuality. They risk a fine of sh100m or prison sentences of five to seven years. This applies to people who produce, publish or distribute pornographic material for purposes of promoting homosexuality, fund or sponsor homosexuality.

The bill’s language prohibiting “promoting homosexuality” does not restrict itself to “pornographic material.” That is an invetion of the New Vision reporter, who equates anything advocating on behalf of LGBT people as pornographic. Instead, the bill addresses anyone invloved in the “production, trafficking, procuring, marketing, broadcasting, disseminating, publishing homosexual materials,” or “who acts as an accomplice or attempts to legitimize or in any way abets homosexuality and related practices.”

The bill also adds an unusual extraterritorial jurisdiction for those who are Ugandan citizens but who engage in same-sex relationships or LGBT advocacy overseas.

Opposition to the bill appears minimal according to The New Vision. It is highly unlikely that many lawmakers will vote against the bill, given the current environment where accusations of homosexuality have become a potent political tool.

This drafting of this bill appears to have coincided with intense lobbying efforts by anti-gay activists following a conference held in Kampala which featured American Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively and Exodus International board member Don Schmierer. Exodus International released a statement “applauding” Don Schierer’s participation in the conference which ended with calls to strengthen Uganda’s homosexuality laws. Exodus International president Alan Chambers denies that Exodus supports criminalizing homosexuality. Scott Lively, however, defended criminal laws against gay people.

That anti-gay conference quickly spawned other anti-gay meetings and rallies, including a march on Parliament on April 24, about the time this draft was written. By then, rumors were already circulating that anti-gay politicians sought to eliminate free speech by criminalizing LGBT advocacy, a rumor which was confirmed in Julyby Uganda’s Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo. Meanwhile, a full-fledged public vigilante campaign was released on Uganda’s gay community, leading to several reports of arrests and investigations.

The full text of the draft is available here.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Comments

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Jim
October 14th, 2009 | LINK

I’d boycott Uganda, but I’ve never seen a product from that country I’d buy. Sounds like they be better off with Idi back. And I’m sorry for that.

Burr
October 14th, 2009 | LINK

So do any of the apologists out there want to claim that this isn’t anti-gay and to call it that is a slur?

Ken in Riverside
October 14th, 2009 | LINK

So when will the first accusation of homosexuality against a rival politician take place?

David Blakeslee
October 14th, 2009 | LINK

Thanks for tracking this abuse of power Jim…and for repeatedly drawing attention to Lively’s efforts in this regard.

BTB is an important place to continue to find what we have in common.

Penguinsaur
October 14th, 2009 | LINK

Uganda=America if Exodus and the other bigots had their way.

David Blakeslee
October 14th, 2009 | LINK

@ Penquinsaur,

I don’t think so.

Being frank about Same Sex Attraction or your orientation without fear of criminal prosecution is basic.

Exodus cannot even be frank about what they seek to assist people with if people will be criminally prosecuted for admitting it.

John
October 14th, 2009 | LINK

And the Obama Administration has said what about this exactly? Oh yes. I feel that “hope and change”.

David: Then think again because the same folks who are still supporting anti-gay legislation today were all in favor of criminal sodomy laws, among other measures, not too long ago:

http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_laws4.htm#co

So they don’t go as far as advocating the death penalty or life in prison like in Uganda. How “noble” of them.

David C.
October 14th, 2009 | LINK

Though this is a human rights disaster in the making, I do not expect a peep out of the State Department or even the Obama administration. IN fact, this is very unlikely show up on the radar of national discourse, just as the persecution of LGBT* people in Iraq has essentially gone unreported. About the only groups that will notice are UN NGO’s that follow this kind of thing, while we here in the US will probably hear zero from the MSM. Pathetic. Typical.

Lynn David
October 15th, 2009 | LINK

Want to boycott, Uganda. Start in England with Tullow Oil PLC – http://www.tullowoil.com/ [Tullow Oil plc is registered in England as a public limited company; Registered Office: 3rd Floor, Building 11, Chiswick Park, 566 Chiswick High Road, London, W4 5YS. Registered Number 3919249.]. Tullow is developing oil prospects in the rift valley (Lake Albert Rift Basin in Uganda) and may extend their play into adjacent countries.

Uganda’s army is providing security. Sometimes that security is rather brutal towards villagers who may not be of the same tribes as the army. I have read that some of that brutality includes homosexual rape to degrade the village men. Even the EU says of Uganda, “Assistance is also given to address the humanitarian situation. The country is at the epicentre of the Great Lakes regional conflict zone where three humanitarian crises converge, which has led to massive human displacement and extensive human rights abuses.

If pressure is applied concerning this bill, it seems that it should be better received in Uganda if Great Britain and the EU were to apply it.

werdna
October 15th, 2009 | LINK

While it’s a bit unclear what we in the west can do to effectively oppose this bill, we can at the very least contact Ugandan diplomatic missions in our countries.

In the US the Embassy of the Republic of Uganda can be reached at:

5911 16th Street, NW,
Washington DC 20011
Tel: (202) 726-7100
Fax: (202) 726-1727

A complete list of contacts (including email addresses) is here.

In the UK the Ugandan High Commission can be reached at:

Uganda House
58-59 Trafalgar Square
London WC2N 5DX
Tel : (207) 839-5783
Fax: (207) 839-8925
info@ugandahighcommission.co.uk

The US Ambassador to Uganda can be reached here:

Steven A. Browning
P.O. Box 7007,
Kampala
Uganda
Tel: +256 414 25 97 91
Fax: +256 414 259 794

A list of Ugandan Embassies and Consulates in other countries can be found here.

While I think Lynn is correct to note that the UK may have a particularly strong position when it comes to applying pressure in opposition to this bill we should not underestimate the enormous esteem which people in East Africa have for President Obama. As Gug at GayUganda observed following Obama’s address to HRC:

Obama’s star is incredibly brighter than that of Museveni, in the hearts of Ugandans. So, when Obama dares to go out and speak favorably to gay citizens in his country, it fascinates Ugandans where gays are an unmentionable pariah entity.

Not to get off track, but it’s interesting to note that as we whine about HRC’s lack of effectiveness and the slow pace of change in the US, people in other parts of the world marvel at the fact that our president actually addresses organizations which are dedicated to promoting gay rights. Sometimes, in our impatience with the political process, we underestimate the real significance of “symbolic” acts like this.

Christopher Waldrop
October 15th, 2009 | LINK

While the United States would seem to be light years ahead of Uganda, I find it interesting that “the New Vision reporter…equates anything advocating on behalf of LGBT people as pornographic”. That’s often an argument I’ve heard made by people here who oppose teaching tolerance. For some reason even acknowledging the existence of LGBT people is, in the minds of many bigots, “pornographic”.

David Blakeslee
October 15th, 2009 | LINK

@ John,

your point is well taken…which is why there is much repair to do between the GLBT and religious communities and between GLBT and the legal system.

David Blakeslee
October 15th, 2009 | LINK

On legal oppression of sexual behavior:

The last sixty years has seen efforts in all areas to decouple legal punishments from many types of sexual behavior.

Controlling sexual behavior is a longstanding value in all religious communities…

Absent existent legal guidelines on minority rights and privacy rights, laws were written based upon tradition, fear and multigenerationally held religious values.

Repression of “sinful behavior” and even thoughts is a valid form of religious practice…but when applied to the legal system it immediately becomes cruel, coersive.

The primary use of legal repression of sexual behavior in the US now applies to prostitution and adult sex with minors.

A second, lower form of repression, is still validated in the civil courts in the area of sexual harrassment.

Thanks again everyone for working to draw attention to this Uganda travesty…Exodus and others need to join your courageous and righteous cause.

Gay Ugandans « Queering the Church
October 15th, 2009 | LINK

[...] and legislative measures emerging in Uganda, such as this report today from  Box Turtle Bulletin: Ugandan Parliament Takes Up Anti-Gay Bill.  What I have not seen in any reports, [...]

Timothy (TRiG)
October 15th, 2009 | LINK

Well, a few people are publicising this, anyway.

http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2009/10/silence_death.php

TRiG.

David C.
October 15th, 2009 | LINK

USAID for humanitarian assistance in Northern Uganda during 2008 was approximately 138 million:

The United States remains committed to rebuilding northern Uganda by providing humanitarian assistance, including food, shelter, water, sanitation, and relief, to vulnerable people. … In 2008, USAID support for northern Uganda totaled an estimated $138 million.

Applying pressure through aid funding or some other economic mechanism is probably about the only thing available to us in this country where it comes to fighting this kind of legislation.

Readers here would be well served to understand the larger situation in Uganda before making an effort to work through US Government channels to prompt some kind of meaningful response to the legislation currently under consideration by the Ugandan Parliament.

Residents of other countries, as mentioned by Lynn David, may have similar levers.

Meitar Moscovitz (maymaym) 's status on Thursday, 15-Oct-09 19:57:41 UTC - Identi.ca
October 15th, 2009 | LINK

[...] http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2009/10/14/15579 a few seconds ago from web [...]

The Wall – Headlines, News, and Notes From A LGBT Perspective – 10/15/2009 | Back2Stonewall.com
October 15th, 2009 | LINK

[...] Will “aggravated homosexuality” be punished by death in [...]

Things and happenings « Cubik’s Rube
November 30th, 2009 | LINK

[...] – Uganda is making it legal to kill gay people. It’s called the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. [...]

German pride
December 9th, 2009 | LINK

why dont you live it up to them to ammend their constitution? Afterall they dont interrupt with any other country’s politics or anything. They have a right to live their lives way they want. Why don’t you people yap when it comes to moslem countries punishing the gay by death penalties?! I am not supporting killing people but everyone ought to abide by the constitution governing their country.

» Gay Ugandans Queering the Church
December 26th, 2010 | LINK

[...] and legislative measures emerging in Uganda, such as this report today from  Box Turtle Bulletin: Ugandan Parliament Takes Up Anti-Gay Bill, or Homosexuals Face Death Penalty in New Vision (Uganda), forwarded by email from Other [...]

Uganda Martyrs: Charles Lwangwa and companions | Queer Saints and Martyrs
November 27th, 2012 | LINK

[...] legislative measures emerging in Uganda, such as this report today from  Box Turtle Bulletin: Ugandan Parliament Takes Up Anti-Gay Bill, or Homosexuals Face Death Penalty in New Vision (Uganda), forwarded by email from Other [...]

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