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Uganda: The Anti-Gay Bill That Won't Go Away

Uganda has again re-tabled the controversial anti-gay bill. Ugandan member of parliament, David Bahati, who proposed the bill back in 2009 has again considered tabling the draconian bill but with changes. He claims to have dropped the death penalty and jailing of family members who fail to report homosexuals to the authorities.

RedPepper reported [dead link]:

Ndorwa West Member of Parliament David Nahati behind the proposed draconian anti-gay bill that sparked an international outcry has said he wants to drop clauses that would see the death penalty introduced for homosexual acts.
“There will be no death penalty at all…that will go,” Bahati said. Bahati said he wanted to scrap proposals to punish “aggravated homosexuality,” which includes
someone deemed to be a “serial offender” with the death sentence.

The report continued:

However Bahati said the proposed legislation was already in the process of being changed, following recommendations made during the last parliament. “The death penalty is not part of the process that we are talking about,” Bahati said, adding he was also dropping proposals to jail family members if they failed to report gay relatives to the authorities.

However, Warren Throckmorton noted that the death penalty has not been removed from the bill:

As an aside, the BBC just can’t seem to get their reporting right. They again are reporting that the death penalty has been removed from the bill. Yesterday, Parliament spokeswoman Helen Kadaga told me that the bill was the same as was introduced in 2009. Bahati has said he would be open to removing the death penalty but this has never been done. In a 2011 report done by the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, the death penalty remained in the bill.

This morning I got additional confirmation that the original bill without amendments was introduced yesterday from Charles Tuhaise, Parliamentary Research Service staffer. Tuhaise said that all proposed changes to a Bill are first brought to the floor of Parliament where they are debated by the MPs. Any revisions are accepted to a bill after a majority votes in support of the revision. For now, the original bill is with the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee without amendment.

Melanie Nathan blogged:

Reports are divided as to whether the Bill will include the death penalty as initially tabled. Many believe the Bill cannot pass in its current form, as it is too onerous and controversial, yet members of Parliament remain defiantly homophobic and either way the future for LGBT people in Uganda is clearly in danger.
[...]Ugandans in Parliament who remain defiant and determined to pass the legislation, do not seem to care at this point whether or not the death penalty is finally excluded as they express homophobia and ignorance in no uncertain terms

In May last year, Warren discussed section 3 of the bill, which deals with the death penalty:

For now, I am going to focus on section three of the report which is where the death penalty can be found. Here is section 3 from the bill:

3. Aggravated homosexuality.

(1) A person commits the offense of aggravated homosexuality where the

(a) person against whom the offence is committed is below the age of 18 years;

(b) offender is a person living with HIV;

(c) offender is a parent or guardian of the person against whom the offence is committed;

(d) offender is a person in authority over the person against whom the offence is committed;

(e) victim of the offence is a person with disability;

(f) offender is a serial offender, or

(g) offender applies, administers or causes to be used by any man or woman any drug, matter or thing with intent to stupefy overpower him or her so as to there by enable any person to have unlawful carnal connection with any person of the same sex,

(2) A person who commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality shall be liable on conviction to suffer death.

(3) Where a person is charged with the offence under this section, that person shall undergo a medical examination to ascertain his or her HIV status.

Call Me Kuchu is a documentary that focuses on gay rights in Uganda. Image source: Call Me Kuchu Facebook page.

Call Me Kuchu is a documentary that focuses on gay rights in Uganda. Image source: Call Me Kuchu Facebook page.

The bill has ridiculous clauses such as revoking registration of NGOs promoting or distributing homosexual materials and jailing the director, jailing persons who say they are married to a person of the same sex and prohibiting Uganda from becoming a party to any new international instruments that expressly include protection for homosexual behavior. Donors threatened to cut aid to Uganda citing that infringing rights and freedom of gays:

Gay sex is illegal in Uganda and MPs supported their colleague to have it banned. However, human rights activists and the international community protested the Bill saying it was infringing on the rights and freedom of gays.
The donors also threatened to cut their aid to Uganda if such a Bill was passed into law.

The bill does not make sense, said the former South African president Thabo Mbeki:

“I mean what would you want? It doesn’t make sense at all. That is what I would say to the MP. What two consenting adults do is really not the matter of law,” he said. Mr Mbeki also responded to a series of questions about the failure of Africa’s present day intellectuals to cultivate ideas for progressive movement of change on the continent and the weakness of the African Union in defending and promoting the interests of Africans.

Help Stop Uganda anti-gay bill. Image source: www.humanrightsfirst.org/

Help Stop Uganda anti-gay bill. Image source: www.humanrightsfirst.org/

Some churches in Uganda are against the bill:

“I am very disappointed with the return of the bill,” former Anglican Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo of West Buganda told ENInews in a telephone interview on Feb. 8 from Kampala, Uganda’s capital.
A significant change is the removal of the provision for the death penalty, but the new bill still increases to life imprisonment the punishment for homosexual activity, which is illegal in Uganda, with many faith leaders rejecting it as sinful and contrary to Scripture.

Melanie Nathan interviewed David Bahati:

I asked about the death penalty and he told me that the Bill will be first introduced in its original form. What happens after that, he said, “would please you people as it would be more moderate.” Yet he could not confirm what would be changed.

He told me that the most important thing is that once the Bill passes there can be no more “promotion of that behavior” in Uganda. That the government will clamp down on organizations and NGO’s which promote homosexuality.

He said, “but don’t worry the bill will not be harmful to you people; and it will protect the children of Uganda. “ We cannot mess up the future of our children.”

He told me that Ugandans will not be blackmailed by the West. He said that the West is bringing the idea of homosexuality to Ugandan and telling Africans what to do about homosexuality and that he said is “Imperialism; we will not be blackmailed by your few dollars.”

I asked Bahati about tourism, “are you concerned people will stop visiting Uganda if you pass the Bill?” He said, “no Uganda has been voted the best destination in Africa last year. I am not worried about that.”

He told me that the purpose of the Anti-homosexuality Bill is to “protect our children from promotion of that behavior.” I then asked what about consenting adult in private. He said that is outlawed “because they are doing the wrong thing.”

Mark Widdicombe pointed out that the bill is based on a false premise:

Apart from the barbarity of penalties envisioned, the entire Bill is based on a false premise. The first paragraph of the Bill states:

This legislation further recognizes the fact that same sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic.

But same sex attraction has been shown in numerous peer-reviewed research papers to be precisely an innate and immutable characteristic.
Here are some examples. But even if homosexuality were a choice and not an immutable characteristic, it would still not be excusable to pass legislation of this sort which seeks to criminalise consensual sexual behaviour between adults.

It seems reasonable to ask why Mr Bahati has such an antipathy to those who prefer the caresses of their own sex. He says it’s because homosexuality was introduced to Africa by the colonial powers, and he wants it eradicated and Africa’s traditional strong family values reasserted. An examination of African folklore, as, for example, embodied in Indaba, My Children by Credo Mutwa gives the lie to that assertion. Homosexuality was known millennia before the arrival of European colonists, and was well tolerated.

As part of a global campaign to support gay rights in Uganda, a documentary called Call Me Kuchu has been released:

Filmed over the course of two years during three visits to Uganda starting January 2010, Call Me Kuchu is a documentary that focuses on gay rights (to be precise – the absence of them) in the “Pearl of Africa”. Co-directed by video journalist Malika Zouhali-Worrall and award-winning photographer Katherine Fairfax Wright, the film premiered yesterday, 11th February in the 62ndinternational Berlin Film Festival Panorama Documentary programme.

This film follows the life of David Katos, Uganda’s first openly gay activist, and his pledge against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that religious groups in Uganda were trying to pass in 2011. Devoid of one of the basic human rights – the right to openly love whoever they wish, and not be afraid of getting killed on the street or be imprisoned for 7 years because of that, as the Bill would allow – David and three fellow activists (“kuchus”, as homosexuals are called in Uganda) share their painful life stories and day-to-day encouragements. They believe the situation can one day be changed, if they only keep fighting and take pride in who they are. At the same time one of the most popular Uganda’s tabloids, Rolling Stone, keeps printing hateful articles that disclose gays who did not wish to come out of the closet under the current situation, and openly encourages violent acts against them.

Human rights activists have created an online petition, Stop The Kill The Gays Bill, as part of their campaign to stop the bill.

Here is the full text of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009.

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