May 6th, 2011
That’s what the blogger GayUganda is hearing, that the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill may be getting its hearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Uganda’s Parliament:
Now, the anti-Homosexuality Bill is at present being discussed in the parliament of Uganda. Just today, as I write. Yes, today, Friday the 6th of May 2011. Committee hearings are reportedly going ahead.
Now, remember that this is the lame duck session of parliament. And, remember that it is supposed to end soon, on 11 May 2011.
If the bill makes it out of the committee today, it could conceivably receive its final vote next week before Parliament ends on Wednesday.
[Update: Warren Throckmorton spoke with M.P. David Bahati, the bill’s sponsor, and Charles Tuhaise, a researcher for parliament’s research office. They confirmed that hearings did begin on the bill today, and will likely wrap up on Monday, and will include testimony from the NGO Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law. Also expected to testify are Pastors Martin Ssempa and Steven Langa. It was Langa who first organized the infamous Kampala conference featuring three American anti-gay activists in March 2009 which kicked the entire anti-gay campaign which culminated with this bill. Bahati was keen to point out that while Parliament may wide up its business next week, it won’t officially end until May 19.]
Uganda has been rocked in recent weeks with rioting and demonstrations against rising gas prices. The government has been responding with extraordinarily violent crackdown on dissent. One opposition leader was seriously injured and fled to neighboring Kenya for treatment. The disturbances even spilled onto the floor of Parliament, which had to suspend its session temporarily on Tuesday. GayUganda believes that forces behind the bill see as an opportunistic diversion for the violence that is racking the country:
So, it is a DIVERSION. The government needs a heady diversion for the country. For the outraged citizens of Uganda.
So, and this is very important, what is the government trying to do?
In actual fact, that diversion is not going to work. Because the citizens of Uganda are simply more concerned about the rising prices of food, and the deteriorating human rights situation. Their homophobia is a reflex which the government wants to use. But, it is not likely to work.
The diversion also can work both ways. With most of the media’s attention focus on the ongoing violence and protests, it could also be that the bill’s supporters see an opening for it to be passed when nobody’s paying attention.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, if passed in its current form, would impose the death penalty for those who are HIV-positive, who is a “repeat offender,” or whose partner is deemed “disabled” regardless of whether the relationship was consensual. It would also impose a lifetime sentence for other cases. The bill would lower the bar for conviction, making mere “touching” for the perceived purpose of homosexual relations a criminal offense. It threatens 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. It also would broadly criminalize all advocacy of homosexuality including, conceivably, lawyers defending accused gay people in court or parliamentarians proposing changes to the law. It even threatens landlords under a “brothel” provision if they knowingly rent to gay people.
Last week, the bill’s sponsor, M.P. David Bahati, agreed to “drop” the death penalty provision in order to get the bill passed. He has made this offer several times before. Given the draconian nature of the bill, the removal of the death penalty is hardly an improvement over the alternative of lifetime imprisonment in a Ugandan prison. The ruling government announced in March that the bill would be shelved over Bahati’s loud objections. Since then, Bahati and others have exerted increasing pressure to revive the bill, including paying people to pose as “ex-gays” to launch false allegations against the gay community.
Uganda’s economy depends on foreign donors for much of its support. Uganda, in recent years, has also tried to improve its coffee exports to premium distributors, an effort which has largely failed to get off the ground due to the reluctance of American and Western consumers to purchase coffee bearing the Ugandan label. Eco-tourism, which has been an important part of Uganda’s economic development, is also taking a hit due to Uganda’s declining reputation, despite being at the headwaters of the Nile at Lake Victoria, and possessing an abundance of wildlife and natural beauty.
GayUganda reminds is that what is happening is not occurring in isolation. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill may well be passed while, at the same time, the Ugandan government is instituting a violent and repressive crackdown against the human rights of all its citizens. As I observed last week, Uganda is now treating its citizens with just a small taste of how it will seek to treat its LGBT residents. GayUganda draws the point further:
But, remember that this is time for the GAY MOVEMENT around the world to make COMMON CAUSE with the average citizen of Uganda to decry the abuse of human rights of ALL UGANDANS.
Do not separate the two issues. Mention both in the same sentence, in the same breath.
Tell this to your leaders in the community, to your leaders in your country. To your leaders in your parliament, and to your leaders nationally and internationaly.
LGBTI rights are HUMAN Rights. They are not divisible. They are not above others, they are not distinct from the others.
Make common cause in demanding the cessation of abuse of rights of Ugandans, including LGBTI ugandans, by the Government of Uganda.
Let the message go out, simple, clear, unambiguous.
LGBTI rights are human rights. And, we are concerned about the rights of ALL Ugandans, including LGBTI Ugandans.
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