Till Life Imprisonment Do You Part

Clause By Clause With Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

February 21st, 2012

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

The proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009. (Click to download, PDF: 847KB/16 pages)

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.

In the bill’s memorandum which serves as a prologue, it gives as the bill’s first objective as “provid(ing) for marriage in Uganda as that contracted only between a man and a woman,” but it waits until Clause 12 before finally banning it. What’s more, it doesn’t just ban same-sex marriage, it specifies a criminal penalty for it:

12. Same sex marriage.
A person who purports to contract a marriage with another person of the same sex commits the offence of homosexuality and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.

In more than half of the states of the U.S., same-sex marriage is banned, as it is in most other parts of the world. Where it is banned, nearly every other jurisdiction is satisfied to simply make such an arrangement a legal impossibility. But it is an exceptionally rare country (is there another one?) that goes so far as turning marriage into a criminal offense, let alone one such as Uganda that carries a penalty of a lifetime in prison. And yet, that is exactly what this bill would do. Any Ugandan who presents another person of the same sex as a spouse has broken a law so severe that the individual would be cast for the rest of his or her life into a Ugandan prison.

But not only that, it would appear possible that with the clause beginning with “a person who purports to contract a marriage…” might endanger any foreign married visitor who enters Uganda, either as a business person or a tourist, who mentions his or her same-sex spouse to anyone in Uganda.

Yet with all that, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee felt that the clause didn’t go far enough.  They recommended the addition of a second subclause:

2) A person or institution commits an offence if that person or institution conducts a marriage ceremony between persons of the same sex and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment to a maximum of three years for individuals or cancellation of licence for an institution.”

With this provision, a minister in a denomination or religion that recognizes same-sex marriage could be imprisoned for practicing that denomination’s religious beliefs. Both of these provisions together run counter to Uganda’s own constitution (PDF: 460KB/192 pages), which under Chapter 4, Article 29, (Page 42) includes the following:

(1) Every person shall have the right to—

…(c) freedom to practise any religion and manifest such practice which shall include the right to belong to and participate in the practices of any religious body or organisation in a manner consistent with this Constitution;

So much for religious freedom in Uganda.

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


February 21st, 2012

This is the kind of stuff that really matters. The lives of LGBT people are in danger over there on a constant basis. Homophobia is a powerful force. My heart breaks for them.

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