Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill: The Establishment Clauses For The Ugandan Inquisition

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

Jim Burroway

November 26th, 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.)

This is our final installment of the clause-by-clause review of Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality BillThere is now a renewed push by Uganda’s Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to pass it before Parliament breaks for Christmas on December 15. The bill had been the hands of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, which on November 23 announced that they were prepare to send the bill to the full House for debate and a final vote, possibly as early as Tuesday (Nov 27).

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.

A couple of the clauses in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill are administrative:

15. Jurisdiction.
Save for aggravated homosexuality that shall be tried by the High Court, the magistrates court shall have jurisdiction to try the other offences under this Act.

19. Regulations.
The Minister may, by statutory instrument, make regulations generally for better carrying out the provisions of this Act.

These clauses look rather innocuous on first glance. Clause 15 sets out which courts will have jurisdiction over which portion of the bill. Uganda’s High Court hears the most serious cases, and Clause 1 gives it sole jurisdiction over “aggravated homosexuality” (Clause 3) which currently carries the death penalty under the proposed bill. Magistrate Courts generally sit below High Court in terms of the severity of criminal cases that they hear. As far as I know, it appears that Clause 15 is probably fairly typical given the kinds of penalties that would be under consideration.

But it’s in Clause 19 that things become quite alarming. Someone will be tasked to issue further regulations to ensure that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is enforced. And who is that Minister charged with that task? To find out, you will need to find the definition in Clause 1:

“Minister'” means the Minister responsible for ethics and integrity;

In the current regime, that would be Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo, a defrocked Catholic priest who last week led a group of armed guards in a raid of a hotel in Entebbe where a LGBT advocacy conference was taking place. He summarily ordered the arrest of LGBT advocate Kasha Jacqueline Nabageser, but Kasha slipped away and was able to avoid Lokodo’s thugs. The following June, he ordered another raid of an LGBT rights workshop. 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.” If Lokodo could break up a meeting with no legal basis whatsoever, imagine the reign of terror he would engineer once he has the Anti-Homosexuality Bill with all of the opportunities for abuse it provides.

Lokodo’s predecessor, James Nsaba Buturo, also saw his office as enforcer-in-chief of Uganda’s particular brand of “ethics and integrity.” And he, like Lokodo, also saw himself as the nation’s pastor, writing lengthy op-eds in Ugandan newspapers intoning on the moral evils he saw plaguing the country. Before President Yoweri Museveni came to power in 1986 following a civil war, Buturo served in Milton Obote’s bloody regime as an enforcer who was adept at making Obote’s enemies disappear. In Museveni’s government, he wielded a softer touch, but was no less insistent in his goal of making gays disappear. While Buturo has apparently fallen out of favor with the Museveni government, having been forced to resign in early 2011, he set a pattern that Lokodo would emulate. In December 2010, Buturo banned the screening of a documentary film which depicted, in part, the work of LGBT human rights workers.

One senses that should the Anti-Homosexuality Bill becomes law, the Ministry of Ethics and Integrity could very well change its name to the Ugandan Inquisition. And why not? There are many parallels. An early draft of the bill included a paragraph in its accompanying memorandum extolling the virtues of ex-gay therapy. That paragraph was dropped when the bill was introduced into Parliament in 2009, but that didn’t stop the bill’s supporters to trot out a supposedly ex-gay person as a modern-day converso. And the witch-hunts which would be unleashed by Clause 14, the ban on all deviation from the Ugandan Inquisition via Clause 13, the startling ease with which someone could be put to death in Clause 3 with the High Court being put in charge of the auto-da-fé — these are the measures that Tomás de Torquemada himself would appreciate.

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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