The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the draconian legislation that would seek to wipe LGBT people out of existence, has risen to the top of the Uganda Parliament’s “Business to Follow” list on today’s Order Paper (Word: 43KB/2 pages). The bill’s rising profile occurs as Parliament is set to consider two other contentious bills: a second Petroleum Bill to regulate gas processing and conversion, transportation, and storage; and a Public Order and Management Bill, which comes in the wake of widespread protests by opposition leaders and ongoing police crackdowns on freedom of assembly on behalf of the government. It also follows a highly controversial Marriage and Divorce Bill, which, like the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, has been in the works since 2009. In fact, it was a walkout over the Marriage and Divorce Bill which denied the previous Parliament its working quorum and led to that Parliament’s expiration before it was able to vote on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
All three bills ahead of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill are allocated sixty minutes on the agenda, but it may, in fact, take weeks for Parliament to make their way through these bills. The Petroleum Bill first appeared on Parliament’s Order Paper last Wednesday (Word: 36/2 pages) with its allocated sixty minutes of fame. Nearly a week later, and it’s still there awaiting action. That same day, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was at number four under “Business to Follow”, and the Marriage and Divorce Bill was placed at number five. The next day (Word: 41KB/2 pages), the Anti-Homosexuality Bill rose to the number three spot under “Business to Follow,” but the Marriage and Divorce Bill leapfrogged to number two, just behind the Public Order and Management Bill.
The last time the Anti-Homosexuality Bill made it to the top of Parliament’s “Business to Follow,” the house was wrangling over a highly controversial Petroleum Bill which would grant vast powers to the Energy Minister, a presidential appointee, giving the minister sole discretion in negotiating, signing and revoking lucrative oil exploration and drilling contracts. Uganda is already rated as one of the more corrupt nations of East Africa, and critics charged that the first Petroleum Bill would amount to legalizing the theft of the country’s newly-discovered oil wealth. That bill was finally passed in a deft, last-minute move when there just happened to be the precise number of people on hand in Parliament to form a bare quorum. Soon after, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill quickly fell to number seven in Parliament’s “Business to Follow.” The bill’s recent rise on the on-deck list follows a familiar pattern of being retained close at hand in case it is needed as either a carrot, a unifying reward or a distraction if one of the other more contentious bills results in turmoil in the House.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill would, in its current form, bring the death penalty or life imprisonment for gay people, and would endanger everyone else with lengthy prison terms for either knowing, providing services, or defending them. A complete clause-by-clause examination f of the bill’s nineteen clauses begins here, and our examination of the numerous false reports that the death penalty has been removed is here. A description of the Parliamentary process is here; with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill now at step “C.” If the bill is passed by Parliament, the Uganda Constitution spells out these options before the bill becomes law.