Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill: A status report

In January, rumblings came from Kampala that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (AHB) might not have the full support of the government. Then on January 12, Uganda’s President Yowari Museveni expressed reservations and caution in a speech to his party members, saying

So therefore, I strongly advise you that you agree to the idea that the cabinet sit down with Bahati, a sub-committee, and see how best to handle this issue because…because… it is a foreign policy issue. It’s not just our internal politics. It is a foreign policy issue, and we must handle it in a way which does not compromise our principles, but also takes into account our foreign policy interests.

Even though AHB supporters once predicted that the AHB would be considered in mid-February, 2009, the bill has not had a required second reading or been the subject of hearings in Parliament’s Legal and Parliamentary Committee. Instead, leaders there appear to have heeded at least one aspect of President Museveni’s advice. On May 7, the Uganda Daily Monitor first reported that the AHB had been evaluated negatively by a key Cabinet committee. Specifically, the Monitor reported that the Cabinet committee found that the bill duplicated existing law in several cases and stigmatized homosexuals due to the title of the AHB. Then, on May 8, Josh Kron reported in the New York Times that the chair of the Cabinet committee, Adolf Mwesige, told him

“Ninety-nine percent of all the proposals in the Bahati bill have been done before,” Mr. Mwesige said. “If we proceeded, it would definitely provoke criticism, and rightly so.”

According to the NYT article, Hon. Mwesige believed the Cabinet report would be the end of the AHB:

Mr. Mwesige said he expected the full Parliament to vote down the bill within weeks. “The influence of the cabinet is very important. If it takes a decision, it must be taken seriously.”

Indeed, the Cabinet report issues a devastating attack on the AHB. I have seen a copy of the report provided to me by Jeff Sharlet who received it by a source in Uganda. In it, the Cabinet committee expressed significant concerns about how the bill was drafted, introduced and worded, concluding

(1) That it was not clear who drafted the Bill since the First Parliamentary Counsel had not been consulted as required under the Law, (Article 94 of the Constitution) and that therefore the Bill was inconsistent with provisions of the law.

(2) That however, the Private Member had invited the Office of the First Parliamentary Counsel to participate in a consultative meeting on the Bill after it had already been published and that this was out of procedure.

(3) That therefore, the Private Member had not complied with the Constitutional provisions as contained in Article 94 and that the Bill was considered unconstitutionally before Parliament.

(4) That due to the omission, the Attorney General had realised that the Bill had technical defects both in form and content as follows:

What follows in the report is a very long list of problems with the bill, most of them noting that the bill duplicates existing law. Over the course of the public debate of the AHB, supporters such as David Bahati and Martin Ssempa have said that the bill was needed to protect “the boy child.” Those opposed have replied that such protections already exist in Ugandan law. Clearly, the Cabinet committee agrees with those opposed to the bill. Here are representative observations of the Cabinet committee:

Clause 2 – The offense of homosexuality:

That the offences listed under this clause were already adequately provided for in the Penal Code Act Cap. 120, section 145 (a) and (c), and that there was no need to create these offences again in a separate Act of Parliament.

Clause 3 – Aggravated Homosexuality:

That the offences under this clause needed to be harmonized with the existing penalties in the already existing laws.

Clause 14 – Failure to disclose the offence:

(a) That this clause was rather broad and easy to abuse since it could be incapable of proof.

(b) That in addition, the use of the words, “a person in authority” was not necessary since the existing laws already provide that any person who observes an offence being committed is under obligation to report it.

The committee found duplication in clauses 4, 6-12 and suggested that the other clauses were unnecessary for various reasons. The only clause the committee believed might be of some value was clause 13 on “Promotion of Homosexuality,” saying

(a) That this appears to be the core of the Bill and should be upheld due to the fact that there was massive recruitment to entice people into homosexuality going on especially among the youth.

(b) That therefore the law should provide that all the parties: publishers, printers, distributors, etc. of any materials that promote homosexual should all be liable to have committed an offence.

In the end, the Committee made five recommendations. 

Regarding the legality of the bill, the First Parliamentary Counsel is charged with drafting all bills and apparently was not consulted until after the bill had been published or introduced into Parliament. Perhaps this is why David Bahati only had a few copies of the bill on the day it was introduced. According to the minutes of Parliament on April 29, 2009, Bahati had only “a few copies available.”

MR DAVID BAHATI (NRM, Ndorwa County West, Kabale): Thank you, Madam Speaker, for the opportunity to move a motion seeking leave of Parliament to introduce a Private Members Bill moved under Rule 47, 105 and 106. Some of the few copies available are going to be circulated in a minute. I beg the indulgence of Members that I move on.

GIVEN THAT Parliament has enacted its Rules of Procedure, pursuant to Article 94 of the Constitution which also empowers a Member of Parliament to move a Private Members Bill under Rules 105 and 106;

According to Article 94, part (d)

(d) the office of the Attorney General shall afford the member moving the private member’s bill professional assistance in the drafting of the bill.

Being “illegally before Parliament” might be way for the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee to avoid acting on the bill at all. The implications on this point are not clear. However, the Cabinet committee’s recommendations certainly give adequate justification for a negative vote if a vote is taken.

So is the bill dead?

Not everybody agrees that the committee report is the end of the line. Via email, Charles Tuhaise, with the Parliamentary Research Service in Uganda, says he believes the bill will be considered:

The alleged unconstitutionality or redundancy of some of the provisions of the AH bill will be examined during committee hearings. The argument that some clauses of the AH Bill are redundant because they are dealt with in other legislation would not tally with Uganda’s legislative history, where legislation has been develop to specifically deal with unique problems or situations. For example, whereas Uganda has laws against assault or infliction of grievous bodily harm, a new Act, “The Domestic Violence Act” was recently enacted by Parliament to specifically and comprehensively address the unique circumstances of this problem.

Just to be clear, when Tuhaise says “committee hearings,” he is referring to the Parliamentary committee (Legal and Parliamentary Affairs). Tuhaise, who has publicly supported the AHB, believes the Cabinet committee’s views will be heard but is not ready to concede defeat.

When might the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee consider the AHB? Tuhaise suggested that other legislation now is more important, saying:

Committee work recently focused on the electoral Bills to prepare for next year’s General Elections. It is likely that as Parliament completes work on these Bills, the AH Bill will follow.  The AH Bill is before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee.

In my view, the AHB is weakened considerably, but not finished. I think some of the provisions may end up in other legislation or come back if a candidate needs to whip up support by opposing gays. The bill may have already accomplished that purpose for those who introduced and support it. I do think, however, that the recent Cabinet report signals that opposition to the AHB is no longer political suicide in Uganda. It appears that those opposed to the AHB for various reasons are now more empowered to speak out.

  • Jeff Sharlet

    Terrific, thorough post. Thanks, Warren.

  • Maazi N.C.O

    Warren,

    It has never been political suicide to explain that the Bahati Bill duplicates the Sexual Offenses law. There are those who have opposed certain provisions in it from the outset (e.g. death penalty and extradition from abroad) Personally, I think the original Bahati Bill is quite crude and needs revising. What is political suicide is expressing support for Gayism in the manner that my compatriot, ICEARC, has been doing on your website. The Ugandan minister who stated that “he expects the bill to be voted down in the full parliament” is probably having a laugh at the expense of Madam Hillary Clinton and those US legislators that the highly influential Gay Lobbyists have intimidated into acting as their ventriquolist dolls. You guys think that its all about Bahati, Buturo and Ssempa. You underestimate the patriotic fervor which this matter has whipped up in Uganda. Foreign donors have never threatened to cut aid money to the Ugandan regime on issues that really matter such as corruption, but are willing to do so to promote one of the worst forms of sexual depravity ever known to mankind. The ruling NRM party is not a monolith and foxy Museveni knows this even if he is the “numero uno” of Uganda. He will not risk the last split that created the opposition FDC party over a mere sexual depravity that over 96% of Ugandans bitterly oppose. The Bahati Bill in one form or another shall prevail. If the refined version of the entire bill is not passed then prominent segments of the bill will be infused cleverly into existing legislation. There is simply no way we can allow San Francisco-style gay advocacy to exist within the borders of Uganda. Now, fly in ICEARC to discount all I have said and produce some soothing sentences to the foreign lobbyists.

  • Lynn David

    Well, if Museveni goes after those Russian fight jets maybe Maazi will get his wish and donors will cut their aid.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Maati,

    Over 96% of Ugandans are obsessed about homosexuality? Wow. That’s pretty sad. It is truly a pity if an entire nation is caught up in hatred towards their fellow man. Surely Christ grieves.

  • http://theugandananglican.wordpress.com/ icearc

    Warren pretty much sums up the status quo viz-a-viz the AHB. Nothing can be added to the post. It speaks for itself.

    PS: Maazi NCO, there’s my ten cents-worth! Happy?

    This is a statement that would bring the house down in laughter on home soil

    “………………..The ruling NRM party is not a monolith and foxy Museveni knows this even if he is the “numero uno” of Uganda. He will not risk the last split that created the opposition FDC party……………”

    Oh, but it is! The monolith………….. Museveni himself! And the reason the FDC’s exist is not due to policy or ideology, they too wanted a crack of the whip and El presidente was not for leaving the hot seat voluntarily. Anyone with those ideas can follow them too, for all he cares, and no one wants to remove their hands form the till while the going is good. And for that reason, I don’t trust FDC either!

  • Maazi N.C.O

    Timothy Kincaid,

    While I acknowledge that many draw their inspiration for resisting gayism from religion, I believe that this matter has more to do with our centuries old culture and less to do with Jesus Christ or Prophet Mohammed ( Please no revisionist propaganda about how africans were gay-loving before the colonial evil missionaries arrived and took their brains away). We are not going to permit the promotion and encouragement of western debauchery in our country. Please direct your attention to unbanning gay marriage in 31 states of USA . Please concentrate on overturning the policies of FDA in the United States and NHS in Britain on the issue of gays donating blood to hospital blood banks. Africa is no go area, okay? I can confidently assert that you will never get a chance to engage in an exotic Gay Pride March on the streets of Kampala. So quit thinking about that !!

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Maazi,

    So homophobia is an inherently African condition? And you reject the West and their “debauched” ideas about equality, dignity, and tolerance.

    Gee, and how is that working out for you?

    You know, it’s really a pity. Considering the natural resources of Uganda, there is no natural reason why your nation is not thriving, independent, and prosperous. But instead it is one of the world’s poorest, impoverished and reliant on the generosity of the “debauched” West.

    Oh but you have your values and your religion to make you feel superior. Your people are starving and dying but, by golly, you don’t have Gay Pride.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Oh, and as for the blood ban, that will be lifted before the year is over. And marriage equality will be present in every state in the debauched union before the end of the decade as well as every debauched nation in Europe and the Americas.

    Currently there are eight debauched nations in which same-sex marriage is legal: six in Europe (Portugal is the latest), one in debauched North America and one in pure and holy Africa.

    Argentina is in the process of passing marriage equality (it passed the house and is before the Senate) to be the first in debauched South America, and when Nepal institutes its new constitution, it will be the first in pure and holy Asia.

  • Maazi N.C.O

    Timothy Kincaid,

    Like most arrogant ignoramuses in the West, you are well versed in negative stereotypes about Africans. I am not surprised. I was educated in the West, so I know how ignorant people are over there about Africans. I am sure many of the idiots campaigning for gayism cannot even point to a map and identify where Uganda is on the map. In fact many still think Africa is a country !!! Botswana is a relatively prosperous well-run democracy in Africa and homosexuality is firmly criminalized there. Contrary to convoluted gay propaganda, there is no correlation between promotion of gayism and prosperity. Singapore is first world nation, but homosexuality is officially a criminal offence. Dubai is a shiny modern city with a relatively well-to-do local population, but if you westerner go there to play gay games, you will be arrested and tried in line with local laws.

    Uganda may be poor and ruled by a venal political class, but we are hardworking, resilient and intelligent. We are not dying out as you ridiculously claim. Argentina, Portugal and Nepal can do whatever they like, but in Uganda (and by extension, the African continent), we simply don’t want your sexual depravity. No amount of gay propaganda based on sentimental words like “equality” and “tolerance” will divert us from the fact that you guys from the West are trying force this highly dangerous, health-risky lifestyle on our people by force of blackmail. You must understand that no amount of economic blackmail will sway us from rejecting gayism. Why poke your arrogant Western nose into other people’s affairs when you can keep yourself occupied with reversing ban on gay marriage in 31 states of USA. If you cannot help, but interfere in other people’s affairs then why not attempt to blackmail Singapore or Malaysia where homosexuality remains firmly criminalized or even blackmail the pro-American client states in the Middle-East where gays are treated a 100 times more harshly than in any African nation or even face summary execution.

  • Maazi N.C.O

    Timothy Kincaid,

    Like most arrogant ignoramuses in the West, you are well versed in negative stereotypes about Africans. I am not surprised. I was educated in the West, so I know how ignorant people are over there about Africans. I am sure many of the idiots campaigning for gayism cannot even point to a map and identify where Uganda is on the map. In fact many still think Africa is a country !!! Botswana is a relatively prosperous well-run democracy in Africa and homosexuality is firmly criminalized there. Contrary to convoluted gay propaganda, there is no correlation between promotion of gayism and prosperity. Singapore is first world nation, but homosexuality is officially a criminal offence. Dubai is a shiny modern city with a relatively well-to-do local population, but if you westerner go there to play gay games, you will be arrested and tried in line with local laws.

    Uganda may be poor and ruled by a venal political class, but we are hardworking, resilient and intelligent, and certainly not dying out as you ridiculously claim. Argentina, Portugal and Nepal can do whatever they like, but in Uganda (and by extension, the African continent), we simply don’t want your sexual depravity. No amount of gay propaganda based on sentimental words like “equality” and “tolerance” will divert us from the fact that you guys from the West are trying force this highly dangerous, health-risky lifestyle on our people by force of blackmail. You must understand that no amount of economic blackmail will sway us from rejecting gayism. Why poke your arrogant Western nose into other people’s affairs when you can keep yourself occupied with domestic american issues. What I mean is that in order to fulfill your incredible Nostradamus-like prophesy that the all 50 states will legalise consummation of sexual depravity at the end of the decade, you need to devote all your attention to the “struggle” within the borders of USA.

    If you cannot help, but interfere in other people’s affairs then why not attempt to blackmail Singapore or Malaysia where homosexuality remains firmly criminalized or even blackmail the pro-American client states in the Middle-East where gays are treated a 100 times more harshly than in any African nation or even face summary execution.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

    To all – Please keep the discussion on issues and not via ad hominems.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Singapore is moving in the direction of more freedom for gay people. Prosperous societies tend to enjoy their freedoms.

    Dubai is a conservative Muslim city, but even the UAE is moving ever so slowly towards more freedom as compared to more religious and intolerant Muslim nations.

    So you can rant all you like about debauchery and such, but your anger, hatred, and contempt for the West will not slow the hand of time.

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