Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill: The Requirement Isn’t To Report Just Gay People To Police. It’s To Report Everyone

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

Jim Burroway

November 20th, 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.

We’ve already talked about Clause 14 before in this series. We described how the mandatory reporting clause is a threat to doctors, lawyers, social workers, pastors, and anyone else who “aids and abets” gay people (in conjunction with Clause 7) and how the law is a particular danger to landlords, friends and family members of gay people (in conjunction with Clause 11). But after having looked at the previous thirteen clauses in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, with all of the crimes and all of the penalties that those clauses provide, let’s look at Clause 14 again, except this time I want to highlight something which hasn’t garnered that much attention:

14. Failure to disclose the offence.
A person in authority, who being aware of the commission of any offence under this Act, omits to report the offence to the relevant authorities within twenty-four hours of having first had that knowledge, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding two hundred and fifty currency points or imprisonment not exceeding three 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$1,900. Uganda’s per capita income is only about $450.)

Did you catch it? Look again: “A person in authority, who being aware of the commission of any offence under this Act

Discussions about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill often talk about this clause as requiring anyone who knows someone who is gay being required to report that person to the police. But that’s not what this clause says. Well, it does say that, but it also says so much more.

What it says is that if anyone learns that a doctor is treating gay people, they are required to report that doctor to police within twenty-four hours for “aiding and abetting” homosexuality in violation of Clause 7, because that is an “offence under this Act.”

If someone learns of a landlord or a hotel owner renting to gay people, then that person is required to report the landlord or hotel owner to police within twenty-four hours for violating Clause 11, another “offence under this Act.” If someone learns of someone providing a safe house to gay people on the run, then that person is required to report the sanctuary-provider to police within twenty-four hours for also violating Clause 11.

If someone discovers that someone else witnessed a same-sex wedding taking place, then that person is required to report the witness to the police within twenty-four hours for violating Clause 12. If someone learns of a person making donation to a gay-rights group, then that person is required to report the donor to police within twenty-four hours for violating Clause 13. If someone learns of anyone who says that gay rights should be respected, then that person is required to report the rights advocate to police within twenty-four hours, also for violating Clause 13.

And that’s in addition to the case where someone learns that somebody else touched someone else’s “any part of the body” “with anything else” “through anything” in an act which “does not necessarily culminate in intercourse,” that that person is required to report that “toucher” to police for violating Clauses 1 and 2. The extend of this reporting requirement is nearly endless.

And if anyone should fail to report any of these things — and much more — within twenty-four hours of learning about it, that person could be thrown in prison for three years.

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 recommended that Clause 14 be deleted, saying “The offence will create absurdities and the provision will be too hard to implement.” But the Eighth Parliament expired before it could act on the committee’s recommendation. When the bill was re-introduced in the Ninth Parliament, it was brought back with the original October 2009 language intact, including Clause 14 with all its absurdities. As of today, Clause 14 is still officially part of the bill.

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.

Ryan

November 20th, 2012

If this becomes law, what we should do is overload their system with reports of people being gay around the world. That way they are spending a lot of time clearing out useless reports and not being able to do their job.

Snowman

November 20th, 2012

It sounds like they basically want an excuse to throw people in jail for pretty much anything. Hell, it sounds like two dudes (gay OR straight) could shake hands as a greeting or to conclude a business deal and it could be considered “attempted homosexuality” under this law, and some random person who’d just been walking by might get busted for “failure to report.”

Frankly, it sounds like it was badly written, but made that way on purpose!

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