Ugandan Parliament Committee Backs Death Penalty Inclusive Anti-Homosexuality Bill
Contrary to reports that a Ugandan parliamentary committee would recommend the death penalty be dropped from the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 which is due a vote Friday in an extraordinary session of Uganda’s 8th Parliament, Human Rights Watch reports that, having seen the committee’s recommendations, the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” is still present and what is more, the committee recommends the bill be passed.
From Human Rights Watch:
The committee’s report, as seen by Human Rights Watch, recommends amendments deleting some provisions but adding criminal penalties for “conduct[ing] a marriage ceremony between persons of the same sex.”
The committee’s report is likely to be presented to parliament on May 13, 2011, as part of a debate before the bill could be up for a vote. Such reports are required under parliamentary procedure. The committee said that it consulted with several key stakeholders in generating its recommendations, including civil society, government agencies, including the Justice Ministry, Uganda Law Reform Commission, prisons, and the Uganda Human Rights Commission. It is not clear how many committee members participated in drafting the report. At consultations attended by Human Rights Watch only three of the committee’s 20 members were present.”It should be scrapped. The committee’s recommendations fall wholly short of making this a bill worth parliament’s time,” said Graeme Reid, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Program at Human Rights Watch. “Even if these suggestions are taken on board, the bill will remain discriminatory, a profound threat to Uganda’s LGBT community and put Uganda at odds with its fundamental human rights obligations.”
The committee proposes amendments to the October 2009 draft bill. Despite the suggestion by the bill’s author, David Bahati, that the death penalty could be deleted from the legislation, the committee recommends retaining it. The committee proposes rewording the provision to align with the current Penal Code provision on “aggravated defilement,” which is punishable by death.
Penalties that the committee recommends be dropped include “attempted homosexuality,” another stipulation that would unilaterally break all ties with human rights commitments in opposition to the bill’s aims, and an extradition order returning gay Ugandans from abroad so as to face charges for their homosexuality.
The committee is also said to have raised concerns about a provision that says citizens must disclose to the police any homosexual activity they have witnessed or suspect of others within 24 hours or risk a fine or jail time.
The committee also recommends an amendment to create an additional crime, “conduct[ing] a marriage ceremony between persons of the same sex,” punishable by three years in prison. This was not in the original bill.
It is important to stress that while these changes have been recommended, they have not yet been adopted so all or none may make their way into the final bill before it is voted on in its third and final reading.
We will keep you updated throughout the day as the bill nears a vote.
UPDATE: Due to a problem regarding parliamentary procedure, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, as well as other bills scheduled for debate Friday, were not taken up.
It is thought that Cabinet was dissolved prior to President Yoweri Museveni’s inauguration on Thursday meaning there was no Cabinet in place for the extraordinary session Friday and therein no bills could legally be discussed.
This “technicality,” as it was described by a parliament spokesperson speaking to Doctor Warren Throckmorton, means that the fate of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill remains uncertain.
It is already established that the bill could be handed over to the 9th Parliament along with the rest of Friday’s business (but not on its own) so long as a procedural order has been made, however it appears that no continuation has been filed.
The AP reports that the Speaker adjourned Parliament on Friday with no date set for its return, suggesting it is unlikely an order of continuation will be made before the 9th Parliament is sworn in, at which point time runs out. Without continuation, MP David Bahati will have to once again go through the process of introducing a private members bill in the next Parliament.
Given how convoluted the process has been to date, it would be premature to say the bill is firmly dead for this session, but there is an air of optimism that, at least for the time being, the bill may have been put to rest.
We will update you as more news emerges.