Ugandan anti-gay bill — a self-contradictory mess

Ugandan parliament passes the Anti-Homosexuality bill, but was a quorum present? (Photo courtesy of YouTube)
Ugandan parliament passes the Anti-Homosexuality bill, but was a quorum present? (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

Uganda’s notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill isn’t just draconian. It’s also a self-contradictory mess, at least in the version that has been publicly released.

The bill makes a show of cracking down on homosexuality, but the life sentence that it provides for same-sex activity is the same as in Uganda’s current law.

Its actual target seems to be organizations that seek human rights for LGBT people, which apparently would be prohibited for engaging in activities “promoting homosexuality.”

The necessary quorum may not have been present during the Ugandan parliament's vote on the  Anti-Homosexuality bill. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)
The necessary quorum may not have been present during the Ugandan parliament’s vote on the Anti-Homosexuality bill. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

In sections that aren’t incoherent, the bill would provide:

  • Life imprisonment for same-sex intimacy — the same punishment currently provided  under existing Ugandan law.
  • Life imprisonment for same-sex marriage. (The Ugandan constitution already prohibits same-sex marriage.)
  • Up to seven years in prison for conducting a same-sex wedding ceremony.
  • A fine and/or imprisonment for five to seven years for “promoting homosexuality” and for anyone who “in any way abets homosexuality and related practices.”
  • Imprisonment for seven years for the “director or proprietor or promoter” of a  company or association that is convicted of “promoting homosexuality.” In addition, the organization’s certificate of registration would be canceled.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

The official language of the bill has not been revealed in the weeks since the Ugandan parliament passed the bill on Dec. 20  and sent it to President Yoweri Museveni in hopes that he will sign it. The vote was held despite a protest from Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi that a quorum was not present.

The list of the bill’s proposed punishments is based on a compilation of the likely contents of the bill, recently released by a coalition of Ugandan LGBT rights groups, the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law.  The coalition’s version, which was compiled on the basis of observations in parliament, was published this week by the O-blog-dee blog.

The bill’s self-contradictory aspects include:

1. Contradiction over “attempts to commit homosexuality”

In one section, the provides for life imprisonment for the act of touching someone “with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.” This illegal “touching” is defined such that it “includes touching— (a) with any part of the body; (b) with anything else; (c) through anything.”

Yet another section of the bill reads thus: “4. Attempts to commit homosexuality (deleted).”

2. Introductions with no content

 

The introductory section of the bill states that it “creates offences and penalties for acts that promote homosexuality, failure to report the offence and impose a duty on the community to report suspected cases of homosexuality.”  But those sections of the bill apparently were deleted before it was passed.

3. ‘Abetting’ homosexuality, however that is defined

One section of the bill provides a fine and/or imprisonment for five to seven years for anyone who “in any way abets homosexuality and related practices.”

But a related section has vanished: “7. Aiding and abating homosexuality. (deleted).”

4. Legislating a ‘fact’

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill implies that legislators have the power to determine what is true and what is false.

Specifically, the bill claims as a “fact” that “same-sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic.”

Deletions

The following provisions of the original bill, introduced in 2009, apparently were removed before the bill was passed:

  • Imposing the death penalty on repeat offenders.
  • Requiring Ugandan citizens to report known homosexuals.
Logo of Uganda's Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law
Logo of Uganda’s Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law

The coalition of LGBT rights advocates, which presumably would be outlawed if the bill becomes law,  said the bill “is blatantly unconstitutional, is against international human rights standards, is redundant for the most part, and would wreak havoc on the fight against HIV/AIDS and other public health priorities in Uganda.”

If Museveni does not sign the bill, parliament can make it the law of the land by a two-thirds vote. Legislators who oppose the bill say that, if it is enacted, they would challenge it in court as a violation of human rights.

LGBT rights activists and other LGBT people in Uganda say that they are currently experiencing increased harassment from people who believe that the bill has already been enacted.

Traditional anti-gay rhetoric

The proposed law is full of routinely homophobic language about the alleged dangers of homosexuality and the alleged immorality of LGBT people.

The bill states that its goal is “to protect the traditional family by prohibiting (i) any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex; and (ii) the promotion or recognition of such sexual relations in public institutions and other places through or with the support of any Government entity in Uganda or any nongovernmental organization inside or outside the country.”

The bill claims “to protect the cherished culture of the people of Uganda,” including legal, religious, and traditional family values “against the attempts of sexual rights activists seeking to impose their values of sexual promiscuity on the people of Uganda.” Also claimed:

“There is also need to protect the children and youths of Uganda who are made vulnerable to sexual abuse and deviation as a result of cultural changes, uncensored information technologies, parentless child developmental settings and increasing attempts by homosexuals to raise children in homosexual relationships through adoption, foster care, or otherwise.”

The bill claims that existing Ugandan law “lacks provisions for penalizing the procurement, promoting, disseminating literature and other pornographic materials concerning the offences of homosexuality hence the need for legislation to provide for charging, investigating, prosecuting, convicting and sentencing of offenders.”

It also states that “Definitions of ‘sexual orientation,’ ‘sexual rights,’ ‘sexual minorities,’ ‘gender identity’ shall not be used in any way to legitimize homosexuality, gender identity disorders and related practices in Uganda.”

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor / publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at info@76crimes.com.

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