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UGANDA PARLIAMENT MAY VOTE ON ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY BILL TOMORROW!

Jim Burroway

May 10th, 2011

[Correction: The Ugandan Embassy is on 16th St, not 15th street as originally reported. The link to Google Maps was/is correct.]

[Update 12:00 EST: It should be noted that while there has been much discussion about dropping the death penalty or making other alterations to the bill, none of that has occurred yet. The time when that might occur — if one would believe that such modifications were to occur — would be during its second reading. As of today, the death penalty is still in the bill.]

[Update 1:15 EST: Warren Throckmorton has confirmed that the report from Stephen Tashobya, Chair of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, was completed and sent on to Parliament. A Parliament spokesperson confirmed that the report, which includes recommendations for modifications to the bill, will be made public tomorrow. Only one bill passed today, which pushes two other major pieces of legislation off until tomorrow. But the spokesperson speculated that  Parliament may hold its session open late into the evening to complete its agenda.]

[Update: 1:35 EST: GetEqual has also added a dial-in campaign in addition to their scheduled protest: “GetEQUAL is calling on every American citizen to dial-in into the Ugandan Ambassador to the United States, Perezi K. Kamunanwire and inform him that every Ugandan life matters. Participants will begin calling the Ugandan Embassy at 10:00am today and continue until the vote. The call in number for the Ugandan Embassy is (202) 726-4758.]

[Update: 1:45 EST: From Pink News: “Foreign secretary William Hague says that the UK is continuing to urge Uganda not to pass a bill that could see gay people executed. Responding to questions on Twitter, Mr Hague wrote: “We oppose this bill and will continue to raise our concerns with Ugandan government. We urge Ugandan MPs to reject it.” He continued: “Our embassy is lobbying Ugandan gov & the UK initiated a formal EU demarche [diplomatic move] to the Ugandan foreign minister on the bill.”]

[Update: 1:55 EST: I will be on Michelangelo Signorile’s program on SiriusXM OutQ with guest host Mike Rogers to talk about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. I will be on shortly after 3:00 EST. If you’d like to listen online for free, you can register here. The channel is 108 on both Sirius and XM.]

The Ugandan Parliament has published in today’s order paper a notice of upcoming business:

NOTICE OF BUSINESS TO FOLLOW

1.                  BILLS SECOND READING

I)                THE HIV AND AIDS PREVENTION AND CONTROL BILL, 2010

II)              THE ANTI HOMOSEXUALITY BILL, 2009

There are two ways to read this. The bill’s listed under “business to follow” do not always come up for immediate consideration. I’ve watched some bills remain under this notice for weeks on end.

On the other hand, Wednesday May 11 is a very significant day, and the vote can be an important diversion. Not only is it the last scheduled day of final scheduled session of the 8th Parliament, but it also happens to coincide with the day in which the opposition leader, Dr. Kizza Besigye, plans to return from Nairobi, Kenya, where he had been treated for injuries sustained when he was attacked by security forces during a peaceful protest. Police smashed the window of a car he was riding in and sprayed pepper spray and tear gas. Besigye was blinded and received multiple injuries. When he attempted to go to neighboring Kenya for treatment, the Ugandan government delayed his flight from Entebbe airport for nearly two hours. Thousands have been injured in rioting that has taken place in multiple cities across the country, as unrest has spread over rising fuel and food prices, as well as ongoing widespread corruption within the government. Human rights advocates have condemned the government’s violent response to peaceful protests.

Clearly, passing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which is very popular among ordinary Ugandans, would be a cynical diversionary ploy on the part of the government.

There is another political factor one must consider. Parliament Speaker Edward Ssekandi is fighting to retain his position as Speaker in the next Parliament. According to this New Vision article, MP David Bahati, the sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, appears to be involved, either directly or behind the scenes, in the Speaker selection process. He may be using that leverage to force the speaker to fast-track the bill for a vote.

If the bill does come up for a second reading, that is when amendments to the bill may be offered. A third reading can quickly follow a second reading, at which time the bill would be passed and sent to the President. The president can assent to the bill or return it to Parliament for changes. According to one Parliament member, the President has not returned a bill to Parliament during his term.

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.

GetEqual has announced a protest for this afternoon from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Ugandan Embassy, 5911 16th Street NW in Washington, D.C. (map). Says GetEqual: “Please bring signs, banners, and your best protest chants Tuesday afternoon to the Ugandan Embassy as we let Uganda know that we stand in solidarity LGBT Ugandans, their families and friends, and we will not sit idly by while Members of Parliament debate whether to imprison or kill them.”

If you can’t make it to the protest in person, you can call, write, and/or fax the Ugandan Ambassador to the United States. Please be polite, but firm. The contact information is:

His Excellency Professor Perezi K. Kamunanwire
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Tel: (202) 726 4758
Fax: (202) 726 1727
pkamunanwire@ugandaembassyus.org

Also, there’s an AllOut petition you can sign online. It now has over 250,000 signatures and is addressed to President Museveni. There is another petition at Avaaz.org with over 650,ooo signatures. Sign both of them. The second one has some incorrect information listed — the bill was never “stopped.” Also, the bill is not dead “If we block the vote for two more days until Parliament.” The bill doesn’t officially die until the 8th Parliament expires on May 18. It could be called back into special session before then.

You can keep up with ongoing developments on this facebook page and on Warren Throckmorton’s blog. We will do what we can here as well.

Comments

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paul canning
May 10th, 2011 | LINK

Ashamed of the BBC, who are running interference from Ssempa. Another MSM fail on Uganda.

Ezam
May 10th, 2011 | LINK

If this bill passes, is there a way the US or other countries can intervene?

Priya Lynn
May 10th, 2011 | LINK

Ezam, not directly but if willing they could exert diplomatic pressure to repeal it or impose economic sanctions although I think the latter option is out of the question for all countries that might intervene given the ambivalence towards gays.

Rober McKee
May 10th, 2011 | LINK

The link to the current form of the bill goes to an article about Mike Haley.

Jim Burroway
May 10th, 2011 | LINK

Thanks for the notice about the link. I have no idea how that happened.

TampaZeke
May 10th, 2011 | LINK

It almost seems that the only issue people have with the bill is the “death penalty” aspect. I’m hoping that people will continue to fight against it even if they change the penalty to life in prison or ANY other sentence.

The bill is VILE regardless of the penalty imposed and should be fought until it is dead.

Darina
May 10th, 2011 | LINK

I’m so mesmerized with the Avaaz page that I could watch new names and various nationalities appear all night. I’m doing what I can to spread the petition in my native Bulgaria, and maybe I’ve managed to reach some people in Slovenia too. It only occured me to post directly on some gay-friendly Facebook pages or people’s walls at 2 AM in my time zone. Still getting used to Facebook after a whole year in there…

The AllOut petition has made its way into Eastern Europe all right.

And still I feel so helpless…

Derek Williams
May 10th, 2011 | LINK

The total population of Uganda exceeds 32 million, meaning that based on a conservative 4% of the population being homosexual, there are at least 1.2 million homosexuals whose lives are being wrecked.

Uganda’s prisons are already massively overcrowded with an occupancy rate of 223%, and a prison population at 91/100,000 of the national population. 56% of these prisoners are still awaiting trial.

There is no way such a horrifically under resourced prison system could possibly accommodate even 10 per cent of the homosexual population being sent to detention prior to trial, let alone being imprisoned thereafter.

Therefore, I believe the way forward is for Uganda’s homosexuals to call the bluff of the administration by all volunteering themselves en masse for arrest as was done successfully in Tasmania, although Australia is clearly a far more moderate country. This would of course involve personal risk, but since life is already completely intolerable in Uganda anyway, what have they go to lose but their lives? Better dead than to have to live like that.

In any case, I can’t see even so barbaric and primitive a government as that of Uganda gunning down and killing 1.2 million of its citizens without trial, even if admissions have been made in such an act of civil disobedience. Regardless, if they do, within a decade there will be another several million of us born to our heterosexual parents.

It is reassuring in the meantime to note the level of disquiet being so strongly expressed at the highest level from all corners of the civilised world.

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