We have been reporting for the past 10 days about Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality bill of 2009, which has been reintroduced in its original form into the Ugandan 9th Parliament.
This bill includes the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” and harsh prison terms for homosexuals and lesbians in Uganda, where homosexuality is currently criminal under the less definitive law of “crimes against the natural order.”
Word has it that the death-penalty portion of the bill is being changed, but what they change is has yet to become public.
International pressure has been increasing to bring the seriousness of the situation to light; yet international media has been slow to pick up on the seriousness of the situation. BBC and CNN have issued reports.
The Ugandan press is stating that the Ugandan government has distanced itself from the bill; the statement is hard to fathom as the member of Parliament who introduced the bill, David Bahati, and the government majority in Parliament are supporting the bill to ensure its passage.
Perhaps reference is being made to the administrative arm of government. Yet there is very little the latter branch can do to thwart the legislature, which is independent and can enact law without the input of the administrative arm at this point. In fact President Museveni, who has indicated his support for the bill in the past, has yet to come out publicly and condemn it. Once it passes the vote he can object to it twice and in each instance it is sent back to parliament for changes; but he has no veto power at all.
This is what the Ugandan press is reporting:
Government of Uganda has today February 9 issued a statement, emphasizing the Parliamentary debate on the much-publicised Anti-Homosexuality Bill must continue.
Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo says much as government and especially the Prime Minister do not fully support the Bill that seeks severe punishments for aggravated homosexuality, “it’s required under our constitution to facilitate the debate.”
Lokodo further clarifies the Bill was proposed by a Member of Parliament David Bahati, saying “it does not form part of the government’s legislative programme and it does not enjoy the support of the Prime Minister or the Cabinet.”
The international media has developed overwhelming interest in the Bill.
Bahati says the proposed law seeks to protect minors from being seduced into homosexual acts, protect the traditional family setting and human race from extinction.
Religious leaders and legislators in Uganda fully support the Bill.
The Bill was re-introduced to Parliament on Tuesday. Legislators cheered, saying its passing is long overdue.
Bahati says the death penalty clause will be amended; a clear signal the Bill will easily get the legislators’ nod.
Pro-gay activists say homosexuality is a human right that must be respected.
President Barrack Obama recently labeled the Bill “odious” while UK Premier David Cameron has since threatened to cut aid if the Bill is passed.
But several top government officials say Uganda will soon be dependent when oil revenue starts trickling in.
Below is the full statement, signed by Lokodo.
Uganda has today been the subject of mass international criticism as a result of the debate on the Anti-Homosexual Bill at parliament.
What many of these critics fail to convey is the bill itself was introduced by a back bencher.
It does not form part of the government’s legislative programme and it does not enjoy the support of the Prime Minister or the Cabinet.
However as Uganda is a constitutional democracy, it is appropriate that if a private members bill is presented to parliament it be debated.
Cultural attitudes in Africa are very different to elsewhere in world, 2/3 of African countries outlaw homosexual activity and 80% of east African countries criminalize it.
Whilst on a global level more than 80 countries outlaw homosexual acts. Contrary to reports, the bill before parliament even if it were to pass, would not sanction the death penalty for homosexual behavior in Uganda.
Many international governments and politicians, who have criticized Uganda for debating this private members bill, remain mute in the face of far graver and far more draconian legislation relating to homosexuality in other countries.
One might ask for example, if Uganda enjoyed as close a relationship with the US and European countries as Saudi Arabia (which sentences homosexuals to corporate and capital punishment) would we have attracted the same opprobrium as a result of allowing this parliamentary debate?
Unlike many other countries, no one in Uganda has ever been charged with the criminal offence of homosexuality.
Moreover the main provisions of this bill were designed to stem the issue of defilement and rape which in the minds of Ugandan’s is a more pressing and urgent matter that needs to be addressed.
As a parliamentary democracy this process of debate will continue. Whilst the government of Uganda does not support this bill, it is required under our constitution to facilitate this debate.
The facilitation of this debate should not be confused for the governments support for this bill.
What this statement is is a weak attempt at trying to justify the bill and a hope that the world will just step back and let it happen. What the Ugandans do not understand is that this bill is abhorrent regardless of any sugar coating attempt. Even a watered-down version of the bill are inexcusable assaults to the basic human rights and freedoms of Ugandan gays and lesbians.
The excuse to protect children is a joke given the framework of poverty, child prostitution, rape, death in childbirth of young teens, which occurs in great numbers in Uganda. There are already laws to protect against "defilement" and those cases usually find that their perpetrators are heterosexual men.
Do not let this statement pull the wool over your eyes. The purpose of the bill according to what Bahati told me personally is to "end the promotion of homosexuality." They want to close down the NGO's that assist gay people in Uganda. They want to silence gays from equality and so have sought to criminalize homosexuality.
If the Ugandan government had distanced itself in good time instead of squirming now during this phase, the impetus of international pressure, this bill would not be on the floor now. The fact that the bill does not enjoy the support of the government as the minister would have us believe, is a feeble attempt at shutting the international community up. If that is the case how did the bill get this far? Why was this statement only made now while it is on the legislative floor and why did the house erupt in applause as it was introduced -- a house comprised of the majority with the same party members as the cabinet?
My prediction is that the bill will pass in a watered-down form, but will be onerous and claimed as a victory for the MP David Bahati, who wants to use a new law as a tool to go after those in Uganda who are in his terms "promoting homosexuality." If the death-penalty portion is dropped it will still not be a time to relax. It will be a mere red-herring and diversion from the sinister attempt at clamping down, imprisoning and shutting gay people up in Uganda.
For anyone who is not taking this matter of the reintroduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into the Uganda Parliament seriously, please watch the video. It is not well-filmed but the applause is audible and sinister.