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Uganda’s Parliament Passes Anti-Homosexuality Bill (UPDATED)

Jim Burroway

December 20th, 2013

There are multiple reports from Uganda media indicating that the nation’s Parliament has given its final approval to the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill today. The independent Daily Monitor leads with the story:

Parliament has passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009, which proposes life imprisonment for homosexual acts.

A proposal for a 14-year-sentence for those convicted for homosexual acts, which the Bill criminalises, was rejected by Members of Parliament who instead maintained the life imprisonment proposal.

After voting to pass the Bill into law MPs asked the President to assent to it fast enough so it becomes law. They also passed a motion thanking the House Speaker for the “gift”.

The tabloid Red Pepper confirms the story, as do Warren Throckmorton and the BBC, which reports that the bill apparently passed despite a possible lack of quorum in Parliament:

The prime minister opposed the vote, saying not enough MPs were present. …She says that Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi might follow up on his complaints about a lack of quorum, while it remains to be seen whether President Yoweri Museveni will sign the bill into law.

The government-owned New Vision reports that the Prime Minister said “there would be further ‘consultations’ on part of the government.” It also reports that President Yoweri Museveni “will decide if it becomes law or not.”

Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga’s decision to bring the bill up for a vote appears to have been a surprise. There has been no indication that the bill would be brought for a vote in the Order Papers posted on Parliament’s web site.

It is unclear which provisions of the bill’s original proposals made it into the final version passed by Parliament. This BBC report indicates the death penalty was dropped, but news agencies, including the BBC, have a very long history of getting this wrong before. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the death penalty was removed in favor of life imprisonment.) Last year, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee made numerous recommendations to the bill, but held those recommendations secret. Warren Throckmorton has obtained a copy of those recommendations and posted them here.  The original bill (PDF: 847KB/16 pages) contained the following provisions:

Clauses 1 and 2: Anybody Can Be Gay Under the Law. The definition of what constitutes “homosexual act” as defined in the first two clauses are so broad that just about anyone can be convicted of just about anything, including “touching” with the “intent” of committing “homosexuality,” even when fully clothed. It also sets the penalty for any “homosexual act” as life imprisonment. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended reducing that sentence to fourteen years, but based on news reports it appears that Parliament has rejected that recommendation. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the subclause outlawing “touching” with the “intent” of committing homosexuality was deleted.)
Clause 3: Anyone Can Be “Liable To Suffer Death”. And you don’t even have to be gay to be sent to the gallows. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended replacing the death penalty with a life sentences, but it is not clear whether Parliament approved that recommendation. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the death penalty was removed in favor of life imprisonment.) But can anyone seriously imaging that spending a lifetime in Uganda’s notorious Luzira prison is any better? Especially once your fellow prisoners learn that you were sent there for “aggravated homosexuality”?
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.” The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended the removal of this clause for being “too hard and difficult to prove and may cause absurdities.” (Update: Parliament Watch conforms that Clause 4 was deleted.)
Clauses 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10: How To Get Out Of Jail Free. The bill is written to openly encourage and even opens the possibility for financial incentives for one partner to turn state’s evidence against another. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended the removal of Clause 8, which would have prohibited the “conspiracy to engage in homosexuality.” The committee also recommended the removal of Clause 10, which would have prohibited the “detention with intent to commit homosexuality.” The reason given for the removal of both clauses was to prevent “absurdities.” At this time it is unknown whether Parliament followed through on those recommendations. (Update: Parliament Watch confirms that Clause 8 was deleted. They also confirm that Clause 10 was deleted.)
Clauses 7, 11, and 14: Straight People In The Crosshairs. The bill has specific clauses that would also target family members, doctors, lawyers, and even landlords for refusing to turn gay people over to the police or providing services to anyone that they know to be gay. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating Clause 14 (“failure to disclose”), but it’s unclear whether Parliament adopted that recommendation. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the “failure to disclose” clause was deleted.) Providing services or providing lodgings still appear to be illegal.
Clause 12: Till Life Imprisonment Do You Part. Officiating a same-sex wedding results in up to three years’ imprisonment. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended changing the penalty for entering into a marriage from life to fourteen years. It’s unclear whether that recommendation was adopted. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the penalty for conducting a marriage was raised to seven years.)
Clause 13: The Silencing of the Lambs. All advocacy — including suggesting that the law might be repealed — will result in prison sentences.
Clause 14: The Requirement Isn’t To Report Just Gay People To Police. It’s To Report Everyone. A closer look shows that the requirement to report doesn’t just apply to gay people, but to anyone, gay or straight, who violates the law’s clauses. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the “failure to disclose” clause was deleted.)
Clauses 16 and 17: The Extra-Territorially Long Arm of Ugandan Law. “Crimes” committed outside of Uganda by Ugandan citizens or residents will result in prosecution in Uganda.The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating these clauses, but it’s unclear whether Parliament adopted that recommendation
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. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating Clause 18, but it’s unclear whether Parliament adopted that recommendation
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.

Comments

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jpeckjr
December 20th, 2013 | LINK

Well, that is certainly, ahem, comprehensive in its scope, isn’t it?

Richard Rush
December 20th, 2013 | LINK

Those U.S. Christians who simply say homosexuality is wrong and they don’t agree with it” * are going to be celebrating this triumph for religious freedom, and then campaigning for America to emulate Uganda.

* Thanks for that, Tony Perkins

Ben in Oakland
December 20th, 2013 | LINK

Sick and sickening.

The only consolation is that inevitably, it will start being used as a weapon, and the law of Unintended consequences will take over.

Stephen
December 20th, 2013 | LINK

Those poor people. The only comparison that comes to mind is I’m sure obvious to us all. It still seems possible that Museveni and the PM won’t sign it. But the fact that it passed the parliament by itself is appalling.

I wonder what sort of impact this will have on the Lively trial. Whether or not the bill finally becomes law the fact of it can only provide concrete example of the harm he’s done.

Uganda had her hopes pinned on a burgeoning coffee industry. Well not any more.

Lord_Byron
December 20th, 2013 | LINK

I hope the president of uganda has enough fucking sense to not sign this bill into law. If not I hope that there are enough people willing to cut all aid to uganda. Of course if that were to happen Russia would give a lot of money to uganda.

CPT_Doom
December 20th, 2013 | LINK

Assuming the law has passed, it really marks a turning point for the western democracies. Will Uganda and other states the criminalize homosexuality be allowed to stay in the Commonwealth (remember, South Africa’s apartheid was enough to get them tossed for decades), will they be allowed to participate in the Olympics (again see the S. Africa parallel), will the US, UK, Canada, France, etc., continue to provide aid and have full diplomatic relations with these countries? Those will the questions to be addressed in the coming months as some reaction must take place if the democracies are to maintain even the illusion of supporting individual freedom.

FYoung
December 20th, 2013 | LINK

I wonder if Starbucks, Second Cup and MacDonald’s serve Ugandan coffee. If they want to keep their Human Rights Campaign rating, they should provision elsewhere.

Nick
December 21st, 2013 | LINK

If memory serves, Uganda’s president is a member of the shadowy hard-right reichwing religious Cult called The Family (they’re based out of Washington DC and Annapolis MD), to which Hillary Roddam Clinton has associated since the Clintons first moved to DC. The Family helped write this odious legislation, I bet.

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