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TV Report: Uganda to Shelve “Kill-The-Gays” Bill

Jim Burroway

March 25th, 2011

We now have YouTube video of the television news item we told you about yesterday reporting that the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill will not be taken up by Parliament.

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The chairman of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee had scheduled the Anti-Homosexuality Bill for debate in his committee, possibly as early as this week. But now, based on what Information Minister Kabakumba Masiko tells Uganda’s NTV, it appears that government has intervened to put a halt to the bill once and for all:

We had the Cabinet Subcommittee which gave us a report yesterday and we did realize that there are many things that are in the bill that are covered by other laws that are already in place. … And the law that is in offing, the Sexual Offenses Bill, will cover most of the other issues that were going to be covered.

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni directed a subcabinet committee to study the bill in January, 2010 amid growing international outcry over the proposed bill. In April, it was reported that the committee recommended that most of the bill be dropped with “useful provisions of the proposed law” incorporated into the Sexual Offenses Act. Which provisions the cabinet considered combining is not known. We currently do not have a copy of the Sexual Offenses Bill. The Bill’s sponsor, David Bahati, responded with a litany of issues which he felt were not covered:

We don’t have any prohibition on promotion of homosexuality anywhere, we don’t have any prohibition on same-sex marriage, we don’t have any prohibition in our laws on recruitment of homosexuality of our children, we don’t have any provision on counseling and caring. We want to make it very clear, we want Parliament to come up with a law that is specific and clear to address the emergent problem of homosexuality.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, if passed, would have imposed the death penalty on gays and lesbians under certain circumstances, including for “repeat offenders” — which would apply to anyone who had more than one relationship. Ugandan law already provides either 20 years or lifetime imprisonment, depending on how prosecutors chose to charge the accused. The new law would also have lowered the bar for conviction, making mere “touching” for the perceived purpose of homosexual relations a criminal offense. The law threatened teachers, doctors, friends, and family members with three years imprisonment if they didn’t report anyone they suspected of being gay to police within twenty-four hours. The law very broadly criminalized all advocacy of homosexuality including, conceivably, lawyers who defended accused gay people in court. It even threatened landlords under a “brothel” provision if they knowingly rented to gay people.

Bahati continued:

I am very confident that the Executive knows that 95% of Ugandans will not support homosexuality.

Minister Kabakumba responded:

Of course we are concerned and we don’t condone homosexuality in our country. That should be very, very, very clear. It’s in the constitution, we do not condone it, and of course our children are suffering.

Bahati called for committee to hold hearings on the bill:

Their views must be taken to committee of Parliament to be considered. They could be accepted, they cold be not accepted.

Last week, Tashobya said that the bill would be taken up for consideration by his committee, possibly as early as this week when Parliament returned for its lame duck session. Parliament returned on March 22. Parliament will expire on May 20. Our source in Kampala reports that Bahati has now gone on radio this morning saying that committee chairman Stephen Tashobya has assured him that the bill would be debated in committee.

But with the announcement coming from a cabinet member and not the committee chairman, it suggests that someone, possibly President Museveni himself via Masiko, has intervened and persuaded the Parliamentary Affairs committee to drop the bill altogether without a hearing. It should be noted that the bill’s main supporter in the cabinet, former Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo, resigned last week in compliance with a court order following his loss in the ruling party’s primary elections last fall.With Buturo now out of the way, it appears that Masiko is the new point person for the government’s position on the bill. In Buturo’s parting remarks, he called on Parliament to pass the bill. (Shortly after Buturo’s departure, the offices of the Ethics and Integrity Ministry were padlocked by their landlord over failure to pay rent.)

January a year ago, Museveni spoke at an NRM meeting urging Parliament to “go slow” over the bill, pointing out that due to international outcry it is not just a domestic matter but one with worldwide ramifications, most notably in the threat it posed to foreign aid to the country. Foreign aid makes up an estimated one-third of Uganda’s budget and economy. He also called on a special subcabinet committee to examine the bill. In a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Kampala posted on Wikileaks, President Museveni “suggested the entire bill could be dropped, and twice asked the Ambassador to remind Washington that “someone in Uganda”, meaning himself, is handling the matter and knows what he is doing.” Museveni also complained about foreign pressure. “The President twice referred to a recent local political cartoon depicting him on this issue as a puppet of Secretary Clinton, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and Stephen Harper, and asked international donors to stand down to give him room to deal with the anti-homosexuality legislation in his own way.”

That subcabinet committee completed it work the following April, but since then the bill has languished in Parliament’s Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. There it quietly stayed through the February Parliamentary and Presidential elections, and its quiet repose there appeared to keep it safely out of electoral politics. Now that the elections are over, Buturo is out of the way, and with Parliament reconvening for a short lame-duck session, it appears that Museveni’s government saw this as the best opportunity to kill the bill.

Comments

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Jessica Naomi
March 25th, 2011 | LINK

I keep wondering if Exodus and Scott Lively have run out of money to bribe these legislators. Is there any way for you to find out if my wondering might be true? You have done such an incredible job reporting on this so far. I sure hope you can find out.

NoxiousNan
March 25th, 2011 | LINK

I second Jessica’s sentiment, and would go so far as to say I believe BTB to be significantly responsible for the attention this bill received in the US.

I’ll not be dancing in the streets quite yet, but I do want to. Thank you BTB!

Priya Lynn
March 25th, 2011 | LINK

Yes, I’d like to congratulate Box Turtle Bulletin as well on its prominent coverage of this story. I think often many Americans think the world stops at their border and its nice to see that wasn’t the case here.

anteros
March 25th, 2011 | LINK

Thanks BTB!
*warmfuzzyfeeling*
:-)

Jerry
March 25th, 2011 | LINK

They may have decided that passing this bill would interfere with future foreign aid. I think we would be foolish to think they won’t search for an alternative.

Richard W. Fitch
March 25th, 2011 | LINK

Until we can obtain a verifiable copy of the “Sexual Offenses Bill”, we will not know how much of AHB2009 has simply been subsumed within a different format. It is encouraging that some progress toward justice has been obtained but let us not be to hasty in our celebration. As others have said above, many powerful forces in our own nation would like to see this accomplished in Uganda. Keep in mind that the folks at “C” St. are by no means penny-ante players.

Amicus
March 27th, 2011 | LINK

related (found this looking for the actual text of the UN Resolution passed this week on gays and lesbians):

226. United States of America expressed deep concern at Malawi’s law criminalizing homosexuality and recent steps that made this law more severe by criminalizing lesbian
relations. While the United States was troubled by Malawi’s amendment 46 to its Penal Code, which could expand existing limitations on media freedoms and political speech, it was encouraged by the Government’s public statement of 28 February 2011 clarifying the section’s limited purview. The United States recommended that Malawi pursue steps to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and enshrine its commitment to free expression through appropriate modifications to Amendment 46 of the A/HRC/16/L.41 GE. 39 Penal Code. It expressed appreciation that Malawi provided clear responses to the recommendations during the Working Group. However, it was disappointed that Malawi had not met the minimum requirements of HRC resolution 5/1 in identifying which recommendations enjoyed its support, despite indicating that there were several recommendations that it did accept

Confused
March 27th, 2011 | LINK

While the Ugandan constitution doesn’t “condone” homosexuality I can’t find anywhere where it actually condemns/prohibits it either. On the other hand, I did find section 32 which states:

32. Affirmative action in favour of marginalised groups.
(1) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, the State shall take affirmative action in favour of groups marginalised on the basis of gender, age, disability or any other reason created by history, tradition or custom, for the purpose of redressing imbalances which exist against them.
(2) Parliament shall make relevant laws, including laws for the establishment of an equal opportunities commission, for the purpose of giving full effect to clause (1) of this article.

Perhaps I am being naive, but couldn’t it be argued that this section prohibits the Ugandan government from passing any law that would result in the “marginalization of a group of people” no matter who that group is? In fact, wouldn’t it be the Ugandan government’s duty to protect the gay population as a “marginalized group” with appropriate legislation and enforcement?

Luis Dizon
November 7th, 2011 | LINK

I’m a conservative Christian who does not at all condone homosexual behaviour. But at the same time, I am avowedly Libertarian in my approach to politics. Hence, even if I disapprove of homosexuality, I would not support legislation to prevent homosexuals from living the lifestyle of their choice, especially if that legislation involves killing. Why? Two simple reasons:

1. This isn’t Old Testament Israel. While Mosaic law did include a death penalty for homosexual behaviour, that law only applied to that particular government. In a secular country such as Uganda, common law is to be practiced, not Mosaic law.

2. Freedom of expression goes both ways. I want to have the right to say I disapprove of homosexuality, but if I’m to be consistent, that means those I disapprove of should have that right to free expression as well.

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