UPDATE: (4pm) – Apparently, President Museveni cannot directly veto the AHB. I confirmed this with two sources today and read through their Rules of Procedure and Constitution. He can send it back or refuse to assent to it (although it would be the first time he has ever done so) but he cannot directly stop it. If he refuses to assent to it, Parliament can either turn around and pass it or they can wait 30 days for it to become law. It can either pass or fail tomorrow. If it comes up and fails then it is done in present form. If it doesn’t come up tomorrow, then a MP can make a motion to continue all business forward. In addition, I heard today, but cannot confirm that if no motion is passed to continue all business, then the new incoming Speaker could direct the committees to pick up where they left off with unfinished bills from the last Parliament. We apparently could be monitoring this particular AHB until at least May 19.
This morning I listened in while Ugandan MP David Bahati was speaking with NPR’s Tell Me More program (live at 11am; if not in your area, click the link to listen to the broadcast at noon) and he described some of the suggested changes to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Bahati said they are now focusing on recruitment, promotion and providing care for the victims of homosexuality. Thus, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee will suggest removing the death penalty and the sections regarding “attempted homosexuality” (e.g., touching) and the 24-hour reporting requirement (if you know someone who is gay, you must report to police or face jail/fines).
However, penalties will remain, although these were not disclosed. And it is important to remember that the bill has not been changed as yet. If the bill comes up tomorrow, the committee will make recommendations, and the MPs will discuss them. One will not know what is in the final version until it is read a third time. On the NPR program, Bahati emphasized that the proposals about “promotion” remain. “Promotion of homosexuality,” section 13, of the AHB reads:
13. Promotion of homosexuality.
(1) A person who –
(a) participates in production. procuring, marketing, broadcasting, disseminating, publishing pornographic materials for purposes of promoting homosexuality;
(b) funds or sponsors homosexuality or other related activities;
(c) offers premises and other related fixed or movable assets for purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality;
(d) uses electronic devices which include internet, films, mobile phones for purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality and;
(e) who acts as an accomplice or attempts to promote or in any way abets homosexuality and related practices; commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a line of live thousand currency points or imprisonment of a minimum of five years and a maximum of seven years or both fine and imprisonment.
(2) Where the offender is a corporate body or a business or an association or a non-governmental organization, on conviction its certificate of registration shall be cancelled and the director or proprietor or promoter shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for seven years.
Please note the restrictions on free speech and assembly. Just using a cell phone to meet a date could get you in trouble.
There are no changes that could make this bill acceptable, but the perception of the Uganda supporters is that they have listened to the world and offered a reasonable response. Given this headline in the LA Times yesterday, I am concerned that media will focus on what is altered and not on what remains and what is the intent of the bill.
I was asked on the show what comes next if the bill passes tomorrow. It seems to me that the focus will turn to the President. One day after his inauguration, he will have to decide whether to send the bill back or not. Armchair Uganda watchers out there, what will he do?