Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill Slated for Debate

Jim Burroway
Thursday, March 17, 2011

Despite numerous false media reports that Uganda’s draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been shelved, yet another report remind us that it is still very much alive:

The controversial Anti Homosexuality bill is one of several bills that Members of Parliament on the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee are set to debate when the House resumes business next week.

…Speaking to the media at Parliament today, the committee chairman, Stephen Tashobya said though the bill has created both local and international concern, it is up to Parliament to pass the bill.

Tashobya says the committee will hold public hearings where stakeholders’ views will be heard and a report made to the House for debate and possible passing before Parliament closes the 8th Parliament.

This is added confirmation from last week’s report from the government-owned New Vision that the bill would be brought up for a vote during Parliament’s lame duck session which begins March 22.

As a reminder, this is what the bill would do if passed in its current form:

* Expand the definitions for homosexual acts, making conviction easier. Current law requires evidence of penetration. The new law would expand the definition of homosexual activity to”touch(ing) another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.” Touching itself is defined as “touching—(a) with any part of the body; (b) with anything else; (c) through anything; and in particular includes touching amounting to penetration of any sexual organ. anus or mouth.”
* Affirm Uganda’s lifetime imprisonment for those convicted of homosexuality.
* Define a new crime of “aggravated homosexuality” for those who engage in sex with someone under the age of 18, who are HIV-positive, who is a “repeat offender” (so broadly defined as to include anyone who has had a relationship with more than one person, or who had sex with the same person more than once), or who had sex with a disabled person (consensual or not). The penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” is death by hanging.
* Require anyone arrested on suspicion of homosexuality to undergo HIV testing to determine the individual’s qualification for prosecution of “aggravated homosexuality.”
* Criminalize “attempted homosexuality” with imprisonment for seven years.
* Criminalize “promoting” homosexuality with fines and imprisonment for between five and seven years. This overly-broad provision would criminalize all speech and peaceful assembly for those who advocate on behalf of LGBT citizens in Uganda . It would also criminalize any attempt to repeal or modify the law in the future, as those moves could also be seen as “promoting” homosexuality.
* Criminalize “aiding and abetting homosexuality” with seven years imprisonment. This provision could be used against anyone extending counseling, medical care, or otherwise providing aide gay people.
* Criminalize the act of obtaining a same-sex marriage abroad with lifetime imprisonment.
* Add a clause which forces friends or family members to report LGBT persons to police within 24-hours of learning about that individual’s homosexuality or face fines or imprisonment for up to three years.
* Penalize people who run “brothels” with five to seven years imprisonment for renting to LGBT people. However, it defines a brothel as “a house, room, set of rooms or place of any kind for the purposes of homosexuality” instead of the more normal definition of a place where commercial sex work takes place. Anyone’s bedroom would be a “brothel” under this definition, placing landlords and hotel owners in jeopardy for renting to LGBT people.
* Add an extra-territorial and extradition provisions, allowing Uganda to prosecute LGBT Ugandans living abroad.
* Void all international treaties, agreements and human rights obligations which conflict with this bill.

On Tuesday, the House Financial Services Committee passed an amendment with nearly unanimous bipartisan support which calls on the Treasury to make foreign aide contingent on developing nations human rights records, including how those nations treat its LGBT citizens. Barny Frank, the amendment’s sponsor, singled out Uganda as an example of a country that abuses its LGBT citizens.

This time last year, the US State Department confirmed that it had repeatedly “reached out to the highest levels” in Uganda, including President Youweri Museveni, to kill the kill-the-gays bill. This was after the White House publicly condemned the bill, and Museveni confirmed that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally discussed the matter with him. This would be a good time for the President and State Department to become involved once again.