Reports suggest that the Ugandan Parliament will take up the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 at some point in the next few months. The bill is more widely known as the “Kill the Gays” bill for its mandate of the death penalty for so-called repeat offenders.
Rumors had circulated for a while following a statement from speaker of parliament Eward Kiwanuka Sekandi that, when Parliament reconvened for its lame duck session starting this coming week, it would be to resolve “unfinished business” which, when asked, he said did include the anti-gay bill.
Last week brought further indications that the bill would be taken up with a statement from legal and parliamentary affairs committee chairman Stephen Tashobya.
From The Advocate:
UGPulse reports on the Thursday announcement from legal and parliamentary affairs committee chairman Stephen Tashobya.
“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.”
Stephen Tashobya also told NTV, Uganda’s largest independent television network, (via Religion Dispatches):
“The Anti-Homosexuality Bill has generated a lot of debate and interest in our population, both for and against. And we are sensitive about that interest.
“So we shall put out public notices for all types of people, for even foreigners, let’s have a [unintelligible] to come and appear before the committee and have this matter resolved once and for all.”
This comes as former Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo made his final media tour before resigning. During the tour he called on lawmakers in the Eighth Parliament, who have until May before their term expires, to continue the war on homosexuality, saying “I am leaving when the battle against prostitution and homosexuality is still going on. I urge Ugandans to continue rejecting homosexuality.”
The bill’s author David Bahati has remained adamant throughout the passed two years that the bill should pass. He told NTV this week:
I’ll be working with my colleagues to talk to other members of Parliament to ensure that this bill is debated and concluded before we close the Eighth Parliament.
We are working with religious leaders, we are working with people in the legal fraternity, we are working with parents and schools…
While the key focus has of course been on the death penalty clause, there are many chilling aspects to the bill.
One such facet would see gay Ugandans living abroad being called back to the country to face charges over their homosexuality. Another would have family or friends outing those they know to be gay to the police, or they themselves would risk jail terms and fines. And, in place of the death penalty should it be stripped from the bill, the threat of forced conversion therapy as a so-called “cure.”
The bill is so overreaching, in fact, that there is the possibility that health workers would be classed as complicit if they did not report those they suspected of being gay. It has even been suggested that provisions guarding against the “promotion” of homosexuality could even allow for the prosecution of attorneys who defend gay clients.
Not directly related but certainly timely, the U.S. House Financial Services Committee last week passed an amendment that would discourage financial aid to countries like Uganda that are actively seeking to further criminalize or that already persecute citizens on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity. Read more about that here.