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Posts for October, 2011

Reports: Uganda Brings Back Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

October 25th, 2011

Bloomberg reports:

The legislation will be sent to the relevant session committee for consideration, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga told lawmakers today in a televised debate from the capital, Kampala.

Uganda’s parliament voted to reopen a debate on a bill that seeks to outlaw homosexuality that may be expanded to include the death penalty for gay people.

Giles Muhame, the former editor of the notorious Ugandan gay-baiting tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. publication by the same name) has more about the Parliamentary maneuvers and debates which, he says, brought the bill back. According to Muhame, the motion to revive the bill was made by MP Lt. Col. Sara Mpabwa, and was seconded by MP Crispus Ayena. A host of other contentious bills which were left unfinished when the Eighth Parliament expired last May were also reportedly brought back, along with all committee reports attached to the bills. Speaker Kadaga cited parliamentary procedures in Canada and India to justify the procedure of bringing bills back into Parliament without repeating the initial readings required to introduce a bill and refer it to committee.

The Speaker was an early supporter for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and before that for increased penalties for homosexuality.  She presided over Parliament in April 2009 in her role as Deputy Speaker when MP David Bahati sought approval to submit an Anti-Homosexuality Bill as a private member’s bill.

If these reports are correct, then the bill’s revival appears to be occurring despite assurances from representatives of President Yoweri Museveni’s cabinet that they have “thrown out” the bill. When that annnouncement was made last August, a Parliamentary spokesperson immediately shot back that the bill was “Parliament’s property.” Meanwhile, M.P. David Bahati, the bill’s sponsor, was elevated to the vice-chairmanship of the ruling party’s caucus in Parliament. In October, the caucus chairman was forced to step aside due to a corruption probe, and Bahati has since been elevated to acting caucus chair.

Since the innauguration of the Nineth Parliament, there had been rumors that that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would be brought back sometime in the second half of August while others placed the timing in November. It was unclear what form the reintroduced bill would take. In early 2010, the Cabinet had recommended dismantling the bill and passing portions of it surreptitiously as amendments to other bills in the hopes of escaping worldwide attention. Many of those reported recommendations actaully made their way into a Parliamentary report last May, barely a week before the Eight Parliament was scheduled to end. Media at that time carried several false reports that the death penalty provisions had been dropped, but we now know that the death penalty, in fact, was still part of the bill.  The Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended that in the Clause 3 defining “aggravated homosexuality” and which specifies that “A person who commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality shall be liable on conviction to suffer death,” that the phrase “suffer death” should be replaced with “the penalty provided for aggravated defilement under Section 129 of the Penal Code Act.” Section 129 of the Penal Code Act mandates the death penalty for an  unrelated offense of child molestation. Parliament ultimately failed to pass the bill due to a lack of a quorum because of controversy over another unrelated bill.

If, as reported, this latest maneuver actually does revive the bill with its Parliamentary Affairs Committee report, then the bill’s passage might be imminent since the last step for its final passage last May was a final vote in Parliament.