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Anyone Can Be Gay

Clause by Clause With Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

February 13th, 2012

The proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009, as published in the official Uganda Gazette on September 25, 2009.

Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been re-introduced into Parliament and is currently in the hands of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. As the Committee considers what to do with the bill, there has been considerable confusion over what would happen if the bill were to become law. Most of the attention has focused on the bill’s death penalty provision, but even if it were removed, the bill’s other seventeen clauses would still represent a barbaric regression for Uganda’s human rights record. In this series, we will examine the original text of bill’s eighteen clauses to uncover exactly what it includes in its present form.

To begin our examination, let’s skip past the introductory material and go directly to the first clause of the bill:

1. Interpretation.

In this Act. unless the context otherwise requires –

“authority” means having power and control over other people because of your knowledge and official position; and shall include a person who exercises religious. political, economic or social authority;

“bisexual” means a person who is sexually attracted to both males and females;

“child” means a person below the age of 18 years:

“currency point” has the value assigned to it in the Schedule to this Act;

“disability” means a substantial limitation of daily life activities caused by physical. mental or sensory impairment and environment barriers resulting in limited participation;

“felony” means an offence which is declared by law to be a felony or if not declared to be a misdemeanor is punishable without proof of previous conviction, with death or with imprisonment for 3 years or more.;

“gay”” means a male person who engages in sexual intimacy with another person of the same sex;

“‘gender”” means male or female;

“HIV” means the Human Immunodeficiency Virus;

“homosexual”‘ means a person who engages or attempts to engage in same gender sexual activity;

“homosexuality”’ means same gender or same sex sexual acts;

“lesbian” means a female who engages in sexual intimacy with another female;

“Minister’” means the Minister responsible for ethics and integrity;

“misdemeanor” means an offence which is not a felony;

“serial offender” means a person who has previous convictions of the offence of homosexuality or related offences;

“sexual act” includes –

(a) physical sexual activity that does not necessarily culminate in intercourse and may include the touching of another’s breast, vagina, penis or anus:

(b) stimulation or penetration of a vagina or mouth or anus or any part of the body of any person, however slight by a sexual organ;

(c) the unlawful use of any object or organ by a person on another person’s sexual organ or anus or mouth;

“sexual organ” means a vagina, penis or any artificial sexual contraption;

“touching” includes 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.

“victim” includes a person who is involved in homosexual activities against his or her will.

These definitions may seem innocous as they stand alone, but as we go through the bill, I want you to keep them in mind because they have the effect of broadening the bill far beyond the scope that most people would assume. To see how this works, we only have to go into the second clause which specifies “the offence of homosexuality”:

2. The offence of homosexuality.
(1) A person commits the offence of homosexuality if-

(a) he penetrates the anus or mouth of another person of the same sex with his penis or any other sexual contraption;

(b) he or she uses any object or sexual contraption to penetrate or stimulate sexual organ of a person of the same sex;

(c) he or she touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.

(2) A person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.

It should be noted that Ugandan law already provides lifetime imprisonment under § 145 of the Penal Code, which reads:

Any person who— (a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; (b) has carnal knowledge of an animal; or (c) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature, commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for life.

The phrase “against the order of nature” has been interpreted throughout the English-speaking world as including homosexuality. But because the British Colonial-era law which Uganda inherited doesn’t provide precise definitions, it has been common practice to require evidence of penetration (for men) or direct genital contact in order to prove an individual’s guilt under this law.

But the new definitions provided by the proposed legislation would greatly open the possibility for conviction to just about anyone who has simply bumped into or brushed up against an accuser with an axe to grind. Look again at Clause 2, 1.c. A person, under this clause, can be sent to a Ugandan prison for life for merely “touching” someone, which under the definition provided under the first clause which includes touching “any part of the body” “with anything else” (a finger? a foot? a ten foot pole?) “through anything.” All of which means that someone can “commit homosexuality” even if they are fully clothed and there is no actual skin-to-skin contact. All that is required is “touching” with the perceived “intention” of committing the act of homosexuality, and that act, in turn, is defined as any same-sex “sexual act”, which itself is broadened so as to “not necessarily culminate in intercourse.”

Ugandan anti-gay activists (and Ugandan police) have previously complained that Ugandan law currently makes conviction of homosexuality difficult. The wording on this bill obviously lowers the bar considerably. Just about anyone can be accused of committing a homosexual act without actually, you know, committing anything close to a homosexual act.

With the bar thus lowered, it will conceivably be very difficult for anyone who is falsely accused of being gay — one can easily imagine rival politicians, business owners and pastors falling prey to such accusations — of proving their innocence. With these two clauses alone, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill already poses grave dangers for virtually anyone in Uganda who has ever acquired an enemy. And to think we still have sixteen clauses to go.

Clause By Clause With Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill:
Clauses 1 and 2: Anybody Can Be Gay.
Clause 3: Anyone Can Be “Liable To Suffer Death”
Clause 4: Anyone Can ”Attempt to Commit Homosexuality”
Clauses 5 and 6: Anyone Can Be A Victim (And Get Out Of Jail Free If You Act Fast)
Clauses 7 and 14: Anyone Can “Aid And Abet”
Clauses 8 to 10: A Handy Menu For “Victims” To Choose From
Clauses 11, 14, 16 and 17: Nowhere To Run, Nowhere To Hide
Clause 12: Till Life Imprisonment Do You Part
Clause 13: The Silencing of the Lambs
Clause 14: The Requirement Isn’t Only To Report Gay People To Police. It’s To Report Everyone.
Clauses 15 and 19: The Establishment Clauses For The Ugandan Inquisition

Comments

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Scott
February 13th, 2012 | LINK

Laws such as this eventually lead to the destruction of the culture. You are indeed looking at Germany in the lead up to WWII. Once the upper echelons of the government are accused, it will all come to a sad end.

And they WILL be accused.
And it will end sadly.

Timothy Kincaid
February 13th, 2012 | LINK

I noted an oddity. Bisexual is defined by attraction, while gay, homosexual, and lesbian are all defined by acts. I wonder how that came to be.

TrogL
February 13th, 2012 | LINK

The death penalty provision has been removed in word only. The provision has been replaced with a reference to another piece of legislation whose penalty is death.

Jim Burroway
February 13th, 2012 | LINK

TrogL

Actually, the death penalty provision hasn’t even been removed in word only yet. It was only a recommendation, one that has not been acted on. You do however have the recommendation right. I hope to have more on that tomorrow.

Timothy,
I hadn’t noticed that. I noticed that “bisexual” was defined but not referenced anywhere else in the bill. I suspect they are less threatened by bisexuals because, in their imagination, bi’s can always marry/sleep with the opposite sex. It’s almost as if bi’s were some sort of afterthought in this bill.

Another point: the earlier draft contained ex-gay language in the prologue (wonder where they got that from?):

This legislation further recognizes the fact that same sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic and that people who experience this mental disorder can and have changed to a heterosexual orientation. It also recognizes that because homosexuals are not born that way, but develop this disorder based on experiences and environmental conditions, it is preventable, especially among young people who are most vulnerable to recruitment into the homosexual lifestyle.

(Only a truncated portion of that first sentence remained in the prologue of the bill when it was introduced in Parliament.)

Of course, it is very nearly ex-gay dogma that there are no such things as homosexuals, just “heterosexuals with homosexual problems”. In other words, homosexuality is an act, not an innate characteristic of a person. For some, the existence of bisexuals proves the point. Illogical, I know. But you only have to look at the right’s reaction to Cynthia Nixon to see how that plays out.

Dennis W
February 20th, 2012 | LINK

Jim, “It also recognizes that because homosexuals are not born that way, but develop this disorder based on experiences and environmental conditions, it is preventable, especially among young people who are most vulnerable to recruitment into the homosexual lifestyle.”

Reading this statement makes me wonder if the law in Uganda has any provision to hold parents of young people, schools, Churches or other social systems accountable for creating the experiences or environmental conditions that make people homosexual?

Should not all of the people in these systems be prosecuted for creating homosexuals? After all, if homosexuality is not an innate characteristic of a person they must have learned this from somewhere.

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