Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill: The Extra-Territorially Long Arm of Ugandan Law

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

Jim Burroway

November 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, 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.

As we’ve been demonstrating throughout this series, the scope of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill is mind-boggling. Only a couple of clauses ostensibly target gay people — although those clauses’ overly-broad wording endangers virtually everyone because the ease with which someone could be convicted over an accusation of “touching” someone on “any part of the body” “with anything else” (a finger? a foot? a ten foot pole?) “through anything” with the imagined intent of “committing homosexuality.” That loose definition can land someone in prison for the rest of their life or, depending on the whims of the prosecutor, to the gallows. And we’ve also demonstrated a host of clauses which explicitly target straight people for a whole host of offenses they can commit (or be accused of committing) when they come in contact with gay people.

For those of us living outside of Uganda, it might be tempting to count our lucky stars that we don’t live there if the bill passes. That temptation may be stronger for Ugandan expatriates living abroad or Ugandan residents who are out of country. Surely they will be safe, won’t they?

16. Extra- Territorial Jurisdiction.
This Act shall apply to offenses committed outside Uganda where –

(a) a person who, while being a citizen of or permanently residing in Uganda, commits an act outside Uganda, which act would constitute an offence under this Act had it been committed in Uganda; or

(b) the offence was committed partly outside and or partly in Uganda.

17. Extradition.
A person charged with an offence under this Act shall be liable to extradition under the existing extradition laws.

Incredible, isn’t it? And notice how these two clauses apply to “offence(s) under this Act.” This bill seeks to impose penalties for any Ugandan citizen or resident who has a fling abroad (or, who merely touches” someone on “any part of the body” “with anything else” “through anything”) — a lifetime in prison, namely, or a death sentence if they really want to get serious about it.

But not just that. The long arm of Ugandan law seeks to go after any health care workers who are also Ugandan citizens or legal residents — and remember, legal residents would include missionaries and NGO employees from other countries — who happen to “aid and abet” homosexuality by helping out gay people while abroad. Or who decide to advocate on behalf of gay people while abroad. Or attend a same-sex wedding abroad. Or who rents out their home abroad to a gay couple while they are working in Uganda.

It might be a fun drinking game to come up with the craziest way someone abroad could run afoul of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Well, I guess it might be fun if the bill’s supporters weren’t so deadly serious. These two clauses, instead, show us that they aren’t content to keep their anti-gay witch hunts confined to Uganda’s boarders in a way that targets gay and straight people alike. They also want to spread it to the four corners of the world to wherever Ugandans can be found, and to every nation that sends workers to Uganda to help its people deal with the government’s massive failures in providing food, health care, clean drinking water, and simple sanitation.

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 the bill back to Parliamentin May 2011, it recommended that these two clauses be deleted, saying “The practical enforcement and implementation of the provision will be difficult.” 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 these two clauses which remain in the bill 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.


November 21st, 2012

So here’s the $64,000 question. What are we willing to do as a community if this Bill passes? We cannot simply let official Washington deal with the situation. There has to be a citizen response as well. As a DC resident I have walked by the Ugandan embassy often. I think a great way to begin a response is to target companies that do business with the embassy. After all, as you’ve pointed out with this series, the reach of this law is way too broad. How could it affect delivery person sent to the embassy, which is a part of Uganda legally? Perhaps if we cut off the embassy’s ability to bring in food and office supplies the message would start to get through.

Timothy Kincaid

November 21st, 2012

Interesting thought CPT_Doom.

In DC it is impossible not to know a gay person. So literally every person that crosses the gate onto that property would be in violation of Ugandan law on Ugandan property.

Perhaps they should be warned.

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