UGANDA PARLIAMENT MAY VOTE ON ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY BILL TOMORROW!
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
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.