Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill: Anyone Can Be Gay Under the Law
Clause by Clause Through Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill
November 13th, 2012
There is now a renewed push by Uganda’s Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to pass the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill before Parliament’s Christmas break. The bill is currently in the hands of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee.
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 eighteen clauses would still represent a barbaric regression for Uganda’s human rights record. In an update to a series which first appeared last February, we will examine the original text of the bill’s nineteen clauses to uncover exactly what it includes in its present form.
To get an idea of how incredibly expansive the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill is, one need go no further than the definitions provided in Clause 1. Please review them carefully, because elsewhere in this series we will note how these definitions will greatly expand the bill’s scope:
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 innocuous 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.
The punishment provided by this clause is the same that is already specified under § 145 of the Uganda’s 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 in Clauses 1 and 2 greatly open the possibility for conviction to just about anyone who has simply bumped into or brushed up against an accuser who has 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. And Clause 1 defines “touching” to include “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. The sole proof required is that the “touching” took place with the perceived “intention” of committing the act of homosexuality. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But just to make sure we’re clear that the bill intends to cast an extraordinarily wider net, go back to the definition of “sexual act” in Clause 1: an act that “does not necessarily culminate in intercourse.”
You can see where this is going, can’t you? With the bar for conviction thus lowered, anyone can be falsely accused of being gay — one can easily imagine rival politicians, business owners and pastors falling prey to such accusations — and it will become virtually impossible for them to prove their innocence.
We already know that this will have disastrous real-world consequences. In October, anti-gay pastors Martin Ssempa, Michael Kyazze, Solomon Male and others were convicted of falsely accusing a rival pastor of homosexuality. Their accusations fell apart when they were unable to prove that Pastor Robert Kayanja of the Rubaga Miracle Center Cathedral had engaged in a same-sex sexual act. But if this law had been in place, the result could have been very different. Instead of Ssempa and others being sentenced to perform community service (and milking it for publicity), Kayanja could be rotting in a Ugandan prison for the rest of his life. Or worse.
With these two clauses alone, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill already poses grave dangers for virtually anyone in Uganda who has ever acquired an enemy. Just about anyone can be accused of committing a homosexual act without actually, you know, committing anything close to a homosexual act. 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 Under the Law. The definition of what constitutes “homosexual act” is so broad that just about anyone can be convicted.
Clause 3: Anyone Can Be “Liable To Suffer Death”. And you don’t even have to be gay to be sent to the gallows.
Clause 4: Anyone Can “Attempt to Commit Homosexuality”. All you have to do is “attempt” to “touch” “any part of of the body” “with anything else” “through anything” in an act that does “not necessarily culminate in intercourse.”
Clauses 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10: How To Get Out Of Jail Free. The bill is written to openly encourage — and even pay — one partner to turn state’s evidence against another.
Clauses 7, 11, and 14: Straight People In The Crosshairs. Did you think they only wanted to jail gay people? They’re also targeting family members, doctors, lawyers, and even landlords.
Clause 12: Till Life Imprisonment Do You Part. And if you officiate a same-sex wedding, you’ll be imprisoned for up to three years. So much for religious freedom.
Clause 13: The Silencing of the Lambs. All advocacy — including suggesting that the law might be repealed — will land you in jail. With this clause, there will be no one left to defend anyone.
Clause 14: The Requirement Isn’t To Report Just Gay People To Police. It’s To Report Everyone. Look closely: the requirement is to report anyone who has violated any the bill’s clauses.
Clauses 16 and 17: The Extra-Territorially Long Arm of Ugandan Law. Think you’re safe if you leave the country? Think again.
Clause 18: We Don’t Need No Stinking Treaties. The bill not only violates several international treaties, it also turns the Ugandan constitution on its head.
Clauses 15 and 19: The Establishment Clauses For The Ugandan Inquisition. These clauses empower the Ethics and Integrity Minister to enforce all of the bill’s provisions. He’s already gotten a head start.