Uganda Cabinet Suggests Alternatives to Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

April 13th, 2011

A report in this morning’s Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest and most reputable independent newspaper, indicates that last week’s attempt by Martin Ssempa and Julius Oyet to revive the Anti-Homosexuality Bill have gotten under President Yoweri Museveni’s skin, and so his cabinet is proposing an alternative:

A Cabinet sub-committee formed to study the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2010 and report back to Cabinet, yesterday added a spin into the Bill and called for its withdrawal.

Sources, who attended the meeting, said the sub-committee, chaired by First Deputy Premier Eriya Kategaya, suggested that if Mr Bahati did not mind a lot, he could withdraw the Bill. “They said Cabinet doesn’t agree with the death penalty which the Bill proposes,” a source, who cannot be named because they are not authorised to speak on behalf of Cabinet, said. “They asked Bahati to drop the Bill if he doesn’t care much.”

That is a remarkably mild and polite request. As we all know, he does “care much.” But documents posted on Wikileaks indicate that Museveni has committed to seeing that the bill doesn’t become law. And so his sub-committee has offered an alternative:

In a closed-door meeting with Mr David Bahati, the mover of the Bill, the sub-committee said some of the penalties proposed in the Bill could be catered for by the Penal Code Act and the yet-to-come Sexual Offences Bill.

The sub-committee formed early last year following President Museveni’s call on Parliament to “go slow” on the bill following international outcry over its draconian provisions. In April, the committee reported that the biggest problem with the bill wasn’t so much it’s call to execute gay people, it was its name. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill simply drew too much attention.

According to last year’s Sunday Monitor report, the cabinet sub-committee argued that the bill should be dropped and certain sections of it (principally, the provisions criminalizing “promotion” of homosexuality with up to seven years’ imprisonment) be quietly transferred to other bills so as to draw less attention to what they are trying to do. Sunday Monitor noted last year that the Sexual Offences Bill would be a likely vehicle. This report indicates that we now have two bills to watch for: the Penal Code Act and the Sexual Offences Bill. The report doesn’t indicate which provisions would be transferred to the other two bills.

As currently written, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would impose the death penalty on gay people under certain circumstances (including if one partner is HIV-positive) and would clarify lifetime imprisonment for all others, including for those who obtained legal same-sex marriages abroad. (Ugandan law already provides either a 14 years’ imprisonment or a lifetime sentence, depending on how the individual is prosecuted.) The Bill would also require family members, doctors, teachers and others “in a position of authority” to report LGBT people to police within 24 hours to avoid the risk of three years’ imprisonment themselves. Anyone convicted of “promoting” or “aiding and abetting” homosexuality would be liable to seven years imprisonment. Those provisions are so broadly written that they could include doctors and even lawyers called upon to defend LGBT people in court. The bill even targets landlords who rent to LGBT people under a “brothel” provision that provides seven years’ imprisonment. It also contains an extradition clause, allowing the Ugandan government to lodge extradition requests to foreign governments to extract Ugandans living abroad.

In this morning’s Daily Monitor, Bahati denies that the cabinet sub-committee pressured him to drop the bill.


April 14th, 2011

lgbt rights in uganda is one seriously protracted struggle.

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