TODAY: Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill Being Re-Introduced In Parliament
February 7th, 2012
It is now early evening in Kampala, and in an apparent sign of the Parliament’s lack of transparency, today’s Order Paper is still not posted on the Parliament’s web site. However, a copy has been making the rounds on the Internet, showing that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009, is scheduled for its first reading today. Warren Throckmorton has info on the bill’s path going forward:
According to a person in the plenary session of Parliament, Speaker Kadaga said the bills renewed from the 8th Parliament will be read for the first time today but reports on the bills from the 8th Parliament will be used as a basis for moving toward a 2nd reading and debate. If true, this means that the time from first reading to second reading, debate and possible passage will be much shorter than would be true if a new bill was introduced.
Based on reports from Parliament in October, 2011, it was anticipated that the anti-gay measure would be considered by the new Parliament without repeating the first reading. During the October 2011 session, the Parliament voted to return unfinished business from the 8th Parliament to the current session. At that time, Kawesa said that Speaker of the House Rebecca Kadaga’s Business committee could recommend that the anti-gay bill go back to committee or it could recommend that the former committee report become the basis for debate in the Parliament. Based on the Kawesa’s statement today, the bill is starting over in committee.
The bill’s original text, combined with the recommendations of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, would look something like this:
- 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.” NOTE: The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended changing the wording on this bill to obfuscate the provision’s penalty by referring simply to the penalty provided by an unrelated law. However, the penalty for that law is death. In other words, despite numerous false reports to the contrary, the death penalty remains in place.
- Clause 4: Criminalize “attempted homosexuality” with imprisonment for seven years. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating this clause.
- 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. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating this clause.
- Clause 8: Criminalize the conspiracy to commit homosexuality “by any means of false pretence or other fraudulent means with seven years imprisonment. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating this clause.
- 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. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee found this clause would “create problems,” although it is unclear whether the committee recommended its removal.
- 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. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating this clause.
- Clause 17: Subject persons living abroad to extradition. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating this clause.
- Clause 18: Void all international treaties, agreements and human rights obligations which conflict with this bill. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating this clause.
- POTENTIALLY NEW CLAUSE: The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended the creation of an additional crime, “conduct[ing] a marriage ceremony between persons of the same sex,” punishable by three years in prison, which was not in the original draft.
I am attempting to find a copy of the bill as it currently exists. According to procedure, if a bill is being introduced in Parliament for its first reading, then it is supposed to be published in the Uganda Gazette.