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