Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill: Anyone Can “Attempt to Commit Homosexuality”

Clause by Clause Through Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Part 1 begins here.

Jim Burroway

November 17th, 2012

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

The proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009, as published in the official Uganda Gazette on September 25, 2009. (Click to download, PDF: 847KB/16 pages.)

There is now a renewed push by Uganda’s Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to pass the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill before Parliament breaks for Christmas on December 15. The bill is currently in the hands of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, but Kadaga has demanded that the committee report back to the House with its recommendations by November 20.

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 eighteen 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 nineteen clauses to uncover exactly what it includes in its present form.

The next clause in Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill is Clause 4:

4. Attempt to commit homosexuality.
(1) A person who attempts to commit the offence of homosexuality commits a felony and is liable on conviction to imprisonment seven years.

(2) A person who attempts to commit the offence of aggravated homosexuality commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.

After having dealt with Clauses 1 and 2 (which sets up the “crime” of homosexuality) and Clause 3 (the infamous death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”), I hardly know what do do with this one. Particularly in light of the extraordinarily broad definition of the “crime” of homosexuality in Clauses 1 and 2 — where the crime of “touching” “any part of of the body” “with anything else” (a finger? an elbow? a Ronco Pocket Fisherman?) “through anything” in an act that does “not necessarily culminate in intercourse.” I’m having a hard time imagining what it would be like to simply attempt to “touch” “any part of of the body” “with anything else”  “through anything” without “culminat(ing) in intercourse” in a way that lands you seven years in prison. Or for life if you do all of that while HIV-positive. Can you imagine the prosecutor in a case like this?

“Your honor, the defendant did maliciously and willfully attempt to touch another man’s shoulder with his kneecap through his jeans and the victim’s hoodie without culminating in intercourse, but failed to complete the attempt. The State demands seven years!”

“Beg your pardon Your Honor. The man whose shoulder he attempted to touch (but didn’t) with his kneecap through his jeans and the victim’s hoodie without culminating in intercourse, is missing a leg. Because he’s disabled, that’s ‘attempted aggravated homosexuality’! The State demands life!”

Recommendations from the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee in May, 2011 (Click to download, PDF: 57KB/6 pages.)

When the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee reported back to Parliament in May 2011, it displayed what is perhaps its only spasm of legislative wisdom by recommending that the clause be deleted (PDF: 57KB/6 pages). The committee observed that  this clause “may become too hard and difficult to prove which may cause absurdities.” Absurdities indeed. But the Eighth Parliament expired before the legislature could act on the committee’s recommendation. When the bill was re-introduced in the Ninth Parliament, the bill was re-introduced with the original October 2009 language intact, including Clause 4 with all its absurdities. And that is exactly where things stand today.

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.

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