Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill: The Silencing of the Lambs

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

Jim Burroway

November 19th, 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.

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.

The memorandum which serves as the preamble to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill states that one bill’s aims is to prohibit “the promotion or recognition of such sexual relations in public institutions and other places through or with the support of any Government entity in Uganda or any non governmental organization inside or outside the country.” That aim is fulfilled in Clause 13:

13. Promotion of homosexuality.
(1) A person who –

(a) participates in production, procuring, marketing, broadcasting, disseminating, publishing pornographic materials for purposes of promoting homosexuality;

(b) funds or sponsors homosexuality or other related activities;

(c) offers premises and other related fixed or movable assets for purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality;

(d) uses electronic devices which include internet, films, mobile phones for purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality and;

(e) who acts as an accomplice or attempts to promote or in any way abets homosexuality and related practices;

commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of five thousand currency points or imprisonment of a minimum of five years and a maximum of seven years or both fine and imprisonment.

(2) Where the offender is a corporate body or a business or an association or a non-governmental organization, on conviction its certificate of registration shall be cancelled and the director or proprietor or promoter shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for seven years.

(A currency point is is defined in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill as 20,000 Ugandan shillings, or about US$7.65, making the maximum fine about US$38,250. Uganda’s per capita income is only about $450.)

This bill would thoroughly outlaw any and all advocacy on gay rights in Uganda. Subclause 1.a speaks of “pornographic materials,” implying a limited scope of the bill, but in reality, even the most innocuous depictions or descriptions of LGBT people have been condemned as “pornographic.” The remaining clauses have no similar pretense of restraint. Sublcause 1.b prohibits all funding for LGBT advocacy, 1.c prohibits any property or assets from being used for LGBT advocacy, and 1.d prohibits all electronic media, including the Internet, emails, SMS text messages, YouTube videos, and anything else you can think of that can be used to argue for LGBT rights. This clause bans everything: blog posts, Facebook status updates, even a 140-character Tweet can land the Tweeter in prison for up to seven years.

Businesses, non-profits and NGO’s aren’t exempt either; the law shuts them down and imprisons their directors or owners for seven years.

And in case the bill’s authors forgot anything, Subclause 1.e is there as a catch-all for any other possible avenues for advocating on behalf of gay people. This covers any kind of advocacy including, potentially, legal defense for anyone charged under this bill, and even any future parliamentary debate over whether sections of this bill should be amended or repealed. In fact, this clause is redundant with Clause 7 which prohibits “Aiding and Abetting” homosexuality (which the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended deleting in favor of this clause). Which means that all of the dangers that Clause 7 poses to lawyers, health care workers, counsellors, pastors — even beauticians (is making a gay person attractive “aiding and abetting” homosexuality?) — apply to this clause as well. In a human rights forum discussing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill held at Makarere University in 2009, law professor Sylvia Tamale describes just some of the dangers Clause 13 poses:

Clause 13 which attempts to outlaw the “Promotion of Homosexuality” is very problematic as it introduces widespread censorship and undermines fundamental freedoms such as the rights to free speech, expression, association and assembly.  Under this provision an unscrupulous person aspiring to unseat a member of parliament can easily send the incumbent MP unsolicited material via e-mail or text messaging, implicating the latter as one “promoting homosexuality.”  After being framed in that way, it will be very difficult for the victim to shake free of the “stigma.”  Secondly, by criminalizing the “funding and sponsoring of homosexuality and related activities,” the bill deals a major blow to Uganda’s public health policies and efforts.  Take for example, the Most At Risk Populations’ Initiative (MARPI) introduced by the Ministry of Health in 2008, which targets specific populations in a comprehensive manner to curb the HIV/AIDS scourge.   If this bill becomes law, health practitioners as well as those that have put money into this exemplary initiative will automatically be liable to imprisonment for seven years!  The clause further undermines civil society activities by threatening the fundamental rights of NGOs and the use of intimidating tactics to shackle their directors and managers.

In addition to the likelihood that Clause 13 could be abused for criminal or political purposes, the provisions in Clause 13 violate Uganda’s constitution (PDF: 460KB/192 pages), which under Chapter 4, Article 29, (Pages 41-42) include:

29. Protection of freedom of conscience, expression, movement, religion, assembly and association.
(1) Every person shall have the right to—

(a) freedom of speech and expression which shall include freedom of the press and other media;

(b) freedom of thought, conscience and belief which shall include academic freedom in institutions of learning;

(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;

(d) freedom to assemble and to demonstrate together with others peacefully and unarmed and to petition; and

(e) freedom of association which shall include the freedom to form and join associations or unions, including trade unions and political and other civic organisations.

Already over the past year, Ugandan authorities have been behaving as though this clause was already in effect. In February of this year, police raided an LGBT rights conference in Entebbe on the orders of Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo, a defrocked Catholic priest. Lokodo  summarily declared the meeting of LGBT leaders illegal despite the absense of a law making it so. He ordered another raid of an LGBT rights workshop in June. This time, four activists were detained until their lawyers showed up to remind police that no laws were broken. The next day, Lokodo announced that 38 NGO’s would be banned for acting as “channels through which monies are channeled to (homosexuals) to recruit.”

The adoption of this clause would make a mockery of Uganda’s constitution, although Lokodo has already demonstrated that he needs neither a law nor constitutional authority to trample on citizens conscience freedoms. Nevertheless, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended retaining Clause 13 in its entirety in the closing days of the Eighth Parliament, and it remained as part of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill when it was reintroduced into the Ninth Parliament.

In the film The Silence of the Lambs, the evil Hannibal Lecter asked detective Clarice Starling what her most painful memory was. She replied with a story about living on a relative’s farm near a slaughterhouse where she tried unsuccessfully to rescue one of the lambs. She was haunted by the screaming the lambs made as they were being slaughtered. Lecter later asks Starling, “Tell me, Clarice, have the lambs stopped screaming?” This clause, as part of a bill designed to legislate LGBT people out of existence, is designed to ensure that their screams won’t be heard.

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.

Dan

November 20th, 2012

Chilling.

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