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:
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