The Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, a coalition of Ugandan civil society and human rights groups, have released a report whichdescribes some of the current problems with Uganda’s existing colonial-era anti-gay laws and the new Anti-Homosexuality Bill which was recently passed by Parliament and is awaiting presidential action. According to Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, Daily Monitor:
“The proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill despite having elaborate provisions will be difficult to enforce since the evidence required is the same as that required now,” reads the report in part. “The rest of the provisions like the promotion of homosexuality and the nullification of the international instruments will simply, render human rights and public health work impossible, thus making Uganda a pariah state,” the report adds.
The report further says the presence of archaic and repressive laws that cannot be enforced brings an unnecessary financial burden on the tax payer. “Public money spent on the enforcement of such a law at the expense of other developmental projects is not worthwhile,” the report says. Recently Parliament, after years of controversy, passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into an Act. It outlines punishments for certain acts of homosexuality with life in prison.
The above NTV report erroneously says that the lifetime prison sentence is reserved only to those convicted of having sex with minors. In fact, the “aggravated homosexuality” clause, which originally proposed the death penalty, is much, much more sweeping. The way its “serial offender” clause is worded, just about anyone can get caught up in the charge.
In a press release, Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law outlines additional concerns with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (PDF: 283KB/2 pages):
Article 21 of the Constitution provides for the right to equality before the law and freedom from discrimination. The Bill will directly discriminate against not only sexual minorities but also persons who do not fight (report) sexual minorities. The effect of this is creating hatred, ridicule, mistrust and suspicion among the populace.
The Bill also seeks to penalise persons who do not report suspects who are engaged in same sex acts. It also creates a burden on the population, who have the duty to report consenting adults who engage in same sex acts or risk being found guilty. In addition, those who “aid and abet” the consenting adults to engage in same sex acts are equally found guilty, including their families
The Bill will interfere in many ways with the privacy of individuals as well as setting a precedent for government censorship of the home, media houses, internal workplace and other places in attempt to arrest homosexuals and stop homosexuality. The right to privacy of persons is provided for under Article 27 of the Constitution which states among many other things that no person shall be subjected to interference with the privacy of that person’s home correspondence, communication or other property.
At the heel of registered success in the promotion of Human rights in Uganda by Parliament through initiation of a Human Rights Committee and Human Rights checklist, this Bill dents the progress as it undermines the fundamental rights of Sexual minorities in Uganda. It entrenches fear and phobia in the minority communities.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was rushed through Parliament with an apparent lack of quorum. Nevertheless, the bill is now on its way to President Yoweri Museveni for his assent. According to the Uganda constitution, Museveni has thirty days after his office receives the bill — and we don’t know when that clock starts — to assent or send it back to Parliament. Museveni has said that he will bring the bill before the ruling party caucus for its consideration, but hasn’t given a timetable for doing so.