Uganda Lawmakers to Bring Anti-Homosexuality Bill to Floor of Parliament
February 6th, 2012
According to this news report from Uganda’s NTV, the Parliament’s Business Committee met today and agreed to move the revived Anti-Homosexuality Bill forward to the full house, possibly as early as tomorrow when the Ninth Parliament begins its third sitting following its Christmas break. There are reports that several lawmakers in Parliament are aggressively pushing for the bill’s passage as part of broader anger over the American and British announcements making nations’ protections of LGBT rights a component of foreign policy.
It is unclear exactly which form the revived bill will have. As originally written the bill has these eighteen clauses:
- Clause 1: Expand the definitions for homosexual acts, making conviction easier. Current law requires evidence of penetration. The new law would expand the definition of homosexual activity to”touch(ing) another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.” Touching itself is defined as “touching—(a) with any part of the body; (b) with anything else; (c) through anything; and in particular includes touching amounting to penetration of any sexual organ. anus or mouth.”
- Clause 2: Affirm Uganda’s lifetime imprisonment for those convicted of homosexuality.
- Clause 3: Define a new crime of “aggravated homosexuality” for those who engage in sex with someone under the age of 18, who are HIV-positive, who is a “repeat offender” (so broadly defined as to include anyone who has had a relationship with more than one person, or who had sex with the same person more than once), or who had sex with a disabled person (consensual or not). The penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” is death by hanging. It also requires anyone arrested on suspicion of homosexuality to undergo HIV testing to determine the individual’s qualification for prosecution of “aggravated homosexuality.”
- Clause 4: Criminalize “attempted homosexuality” with imprisonment for seven years.
- Clause 5: Provide for compensation to the “victim” of homosexuality, which would provide incentives for even a consensual partner in a relationship to later claim “victim” status in order to save his or her own life and freedom by pressing charges against the other partner.
- Clause 6: Guarantee anonymity to people making accusations.
- Clause 7: Criminalize “aiding and abetting homosexuality” with seven years imprisonment. This provision could be used against anyone extending counseling, medical care, or otherwise providing aide gay people.Criminalize “promoting” homosexuality with fines and imprisonment for between five and seven years. This overly-broad provision would criminalize all speech and peaceful assembly for those who advocate on behalf of LGBT citizens in Uganda . It would also criminalize any attempt to repeal or modify the law in the future, as those moves could also be seen as “promoting” homosexuality.
- Clause 8: Criminalize the conspiracy to commit homosexuality “by any means of false pretence or other fraudulent means with seven years imprisonment.
- Clause 9: Criminalize “procuring homosexuality by threats” (No penalty specified).
- Clause 10: Criminalize “detention with intent to commit homosexuality” with seven years imprisonment.
- Clause 11: Penalize people who run “brothels” with five to seven years imprisonment for renting to LGBT people. However, it defines a brothel as “a house, room, set of rooms or place of any kind for the purposes of homosexuality” instead of the more normal definition of a place where commercial sex work takes place. Anyone’s bedroom would be a “brothel” under this definition, placing landlords and hotel owners in jeopardy for renting to LGBT people.
- Clause 12: Criminalize the act of obtaining a same-sex marriage abroad with lifetime imprisonment.
- Clause 13: Criminalize “promoting” homosexuality with fines and imprisonment for between five and seven years. This overly-broad provision would criminalize all speech and peaceful assembly for those who advocate on behalf of LGBT citizens in Uganda . It would also criminalize any attempt to repeal or modify the law in the future, as those moves could also be seen as “promoting” homosexuality.
- Clause 14: Require friends or family members to report LGBT persons to police within 24-hours of learning about that individual’s homosexuality or face fines or imprisonment for up to three years.
- Clause 15: Reserve trials for “Aggravated homosexuality” for Uganda’s High Court. All other can be tried by magistrates.
- Clause 16: Make the law applicable to all Ugandans living or visiting abroad via an extra-territorial clause.
- Clause 17: Subject persons living abroad to extradition.
- Clause 18: Void all international treaties, agreements and human rights obligations which conflict with this bill.
Shortly before the Eight Parliament ended, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended several changes to the bill. Despite numerous false reports to the contrary, the removal of the death penalty was not one of the changes. According to Human Rights Watch, the committee recommended removing Clause 4 which would criminalize “attempted homosexuality,” along with Clause 7 (“aiding and abetting homosexuality”) and Clause 8 (“conspiracy to commit homosexuality”). The committee found that clause 14, which would require anyone knowing an LGBT person to report that person to police, would “create problems,” although it is unclear whether the committee recommended its removal. The committee also recommended removal of the extraterritorial Clauses 16 through 18, but added a new crime: “conduct[ing] a marriage ceremony between persons of the same sex,” punishable by three years in prison. That clause was not in the original draft.
The Eighth Parliament ended before the committee’s recommendations could be considered for adoption. Without that action, it appears that the bill is likely still in its original form.