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13 May 2011

Uganda parliament committee backs anti-homosexuality bill: Human Rights Watch

Contrary to earlier reports that Uganda lawmakers have removed the death penalty clause from the proposed anti-gay bill, the country's parliament’s Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee has in fact recommended passage of the proposed bill, including retaining the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” Human Rights Watch said in its latest statement today.

Update (May 16, 2011):  The proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill was not voted on Friday as expected. The bill or an amended version of it was adjourned and be back during the next parliament sitting, which is expected to begin in June, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said. It would however have to return to the beginning of the legislative process, the organisation said.

"Today marks the end of a chapter in the fight to protect the rights of the LGBT community in Uganda but the struggle isn't over yet," Graeme Reid, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Program at HRW was quoted as saying in a CNN report. "There's a real danger we might see this bill remerge in some form."

Media statement issued by Human Rights Watch May 12, 2011:

Top of page: Police use water cannons to spray anti-government protesters with pink dye during demonstrations in the capital Kampala on May 9. Uganda President Yoweri Museveni was sworn in for a fourth term in office yesterday, which will extend his rule of the country to 30 years. His long-term rival Dr Kizza Besigye, who came in a distant second to President Museveni in the elections with roughly 20 percent of the vote, said that he would refuse to recognise the current government as they allege the results had been tampered with. Dr Besigye is said to be against the anti-gay bill.

The Ugandan parliament’s Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee has regrettably recommended passage of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, including retaining the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” Human Rights Watch said today. 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.”

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill
(Read full text here.)

3. Aggravated homosexuality.

(1) A person commits the offense of aggravated homosexuality where the

(a) person against whom the offence is committed is below the age of 18 years;

(b) offender is a person living with HIV;

(c) offender is a parent or guardian of the person against whom the offence is committed;

(d) offender is a person in authority over the person against whom the offence is committed;

(e) victim of the offence is a person with disability;

(f) offender is a serial offender, or

(g) offender applies, administers or causes to be used by any man or woman any drug, matter or thing with intent to stupefy overpower him or her so as to there by enable any person to have unlawful carnal connection with any person of the same sex,

(2) A person who commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality shall be liable on conviction to suffer death.

(3) Where a person is charged with the offence under this section, that person shall undergo a medical examination to ascertain his or her HIV status.

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.

Some recommendations integrate concerns raised by Ugandan and international human rights groups. The committee states that provisions criminalizing “attempted” homosexuality should be removed, rightly stating such allegations would be very difficult to prove, Human Rights Watch said. The committee also recognizes that provisions requiring anyone who knows of homosexual conduct to report to police within 24 hours would create “problems especially to professionals whose ethics include confidentiality in order to be able to carry out their functions like Doctors, Lawyers and Counselors.”

The committee also suggests removing the clauses on extra-territorial prosecution of homosexuality and on nullifying Uganda's international human rights obligations to the extent that they contradict the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

The committee recommends the creation of an additional crime, “conduct[ing] a marriage ceremony between persons of the same sex,” punishable by three years in prison, which was not in the original draft. It also suggests deleting the crimes of “aiding and abetting homosexuality,” and “conspiracy to commit homosexuality,” but including a penalty of seven years in prison for “procuring homosexuality by threats.” The committee did not comment on the current proposed provision criminalizing the “promotion of homosexuality,” which would jeopardize the legitimate work of national and international activists and organizations working to defend and promote human rights in Uganda.

Proposed bill  has drawn widespread international condemnation since 2009

Homosexuality already illegal in Uganda
Homosexuality is already criminalised under existing laws, and in some cases is punishable by life imprisonment. The proposed bill would impose:

- the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality" in cases of rape of a minor by a person of the same sex, or where one partner carries the virus that can cause AIDS. 

- three-year prison sentence for anyone who is aware of evidence of homosexuality and fails to report it to the police within 24 hours.

- up to seven years for anyone who defends the rights of gays and lesbians.

World leaders including US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have condemned the proposed bill, which was first introduced in 2009. Describing the measure as "odious", the US State Department on Thursday called on the Uganda legislature to reject the proposed bill, CNN reported.

"No amendments, no changes, would justify the passage of this odious bill," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters. "Both (President Barack Obama) and (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) publicly said it is inconsistent with universal human rights standards and obligations."

"We are following this legislative process very closely," Toner said. "Our embassy is closely monitoring the parliament's proceedings and we also are in close contact with Uganda's civil rights and civil society leaders, as well as members of the (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community there."

Australia has added its voice to global criticism of the proposed bill with Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd saying his country had conveyed its deep concerns to the Ugandan Acting High Commissioner in Canberra.

"We have expressed the government's condemnation of the content of the bill," Rudd said in a statement released late Thursday. "Australia is a global advocate in support of non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and will continue to take opportunities through the United Nations and other channels to urge all governments to end such discrimination."

Links to American evangelical groups

The bill's author, David Bahati and anti-gay organisations in Uganda, have been found to be linked to American evangelical groups who have been operating in the country for some years. The public and lawmakers have been told that gay men were recruiting their school children for sex, and that NGOs and gay rights groups are promoting a Western "gay agenda" that aims to destroy the Ugandan family unit.

Jeff Sharlet, an investigative journalist and author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power – about a US-based religious and political organisation, met and interviewed David Bahati for an article published in Harper's Magazine in September 2010.

Sharlet says he visited Kampala at the invitation of Bahati who had told him: “If you come here, you'll see homosexuals from Europe and America are luring our children into homosexuality by distributing cell phones and iPods and things like this.

"And he said, 'And I can explain to you what I really want to do.'" 

That is "to kill every last gay person," Bahati told the journalist.

Mariana van Zeller, a Peabody Award-winning Portuguese journalist and correspondent for the Vanguard documentary series on Current TV travelled to Uganda and found evidence of a growing influence of American religious groups has led to a movement to further criminalise homosexuality.

Her 40-minute documentary Missionaries of Hate documented the visit by American Evangelical Lou Engle's to Uganda in May 2010 to support the major backers of the proposed legislation. van Zeller also interviewed "kill the gays" bill author MP David Bahati; Pastor Martin Ssempa, one of the most famous religious leaders in Uganda, whose preaching methods include showing gay pornography in church; and Ugandan citizens (both gay and straight) about their feelings on homosexuality and the proposed laws.


Reader's Comments

1. 2011-05-13 16:56  
What's it about that picture? Curious..??
2. 2011-05-13 16:56  
What's it about that picture? Curious..??
3. 2011-05-13 17:54  
"(f) offender is a serial offender" = death.

=anyone who has gay sex more than once, fails to report a homosexual more than once, touches someone on the shoulder "with intent" more than once etc etc.

Basically they can use this law to execute anyone they want, political opponent, rival pastor, etc etc.
4. 2011-05-13 20:22  
a bunch of primitive people trying to debate on petty issues, they should have spent their energy on how to feed their people, provide better human basics such as health care, education and try to cope up with modernisation, instead they dwell on some medieval values...

the teaching of the bible is out-dated, believing in fairy tales will get humanity nowhere...

5. 2011-05-13 20:36  
4: Bloodycherry... you leave me speechless... think for a bit and then reword your post... are you drinking?
6. 2011-05-13 22:04  
Will4u, Bloodycherry's comment @ 4 is fair comment. The (popular) persecution of gays there is said to be to distract from government failings as well as from the arrest and torture of opposition politicians.

Uganda is a country that has reported an increase in child sacrifice by witchdoctors but some of the stories sound so similar to the made up stories about gays via bribed "witnesses" and "ex-gays", I wonder how much truth there really is in them.

It's odd that some in the government take a more serious view of homosexuality than of child sacrifice, demanding the death penalty for gays, but willing to let mass child killers off the hook if they become Christian. Compare what Buturu said here, to what he said about gays that's been reported on Fridae before : " Asked if he [an ex-witchdoctor] was afraid he might now be prosecuted as a result of confessing to killing 70 people [children], he said:
"I have been to all the churches… and they know me as a warrior in the drive to end witchcraft that involves human sacrifice, so I think that alone should indemnify me and have me exonerated."
Uganda's Minister of Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo believes that "to punish retrospectively would cause a problem... if we can persuade Ugandans to change, that is much better than going back into the past." (BBC Newsnight Report)
Comment edited on 2011-05-13 22:35:07
7. 2011-05-13 23:11  
Kumabro_oz... you don't get anywhere in life by calling Ugandans or any ethnic group "a bunch of primitive people"... that is racist and bullshit... in fact, this crap was influenced from the "MODERN" U.S. of A. ... so you too can pull your comment up and have a look at what you are agreeing to... I come from a country with an ethnic group that used to own its space b4 the British arrived and screwed it all up... in my country I would NEVER use the term "a bunch of primitive people"... it is against the law! ... are aborigines "a bunch of primitive people" ? NO...

Are you or Bloodycherry going to say that American Republicans might be accused of being "a bunch of primitive people" because of their backward views on the death penalty and gay marriage...?

It is unwise and immoral to use the term "a bunch of primitive people"! Argue using terms, details, and facts that are hard-hitting but able to get a result...

in the end, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/13/uganda-anti-gay-bill-shelved
Comment edited on 2011-05-13 23:16:52
Comment #8 was deleted by its author on 2011-05-13 23:16
Comment #9 was deleted by its author on 2011-05-13 23:16
10. 2011-05-13 23:36  
AIDS, poverty, famine, massive unemployment- the list is endless. The woman and children in Africa are shriveling and issues need to be addressed. Yet, African politicians are wasting their time on issues like homosexuality. This is deplorable.
11. 2011-05-14 00:50  
Will4u… ok he could have chosen his words better, and to someone who thinks in racial terms his comment could look that way I guess, but nowhere does he mention race. You are introducing that to the thread. I read his post as a comment on the society, a society that uses the Old Testament to justify the murder of homosexuals and others, that has child killing as a part of its traditional religion, that arrests and tortures political opponents and gays, that has rival pastors framing each other as gays (Ssempa is on trial for for bribing guys to say they were raped by another pastor), where a gay activist was recently murdered with an iron bar after being outed in the press, and where it has been easy for American evangelicals to exploit a large and credulous section of the population and create an anti-gay frenzy. But…you only have to read the local blogs to know that there are wonderful and brave people there, like the old anglican priest who was fired for supporting gays, and others fighting for human rights; they are being victimised and are suffering. Back to Bloodycherry's comment…surely you would agree that any society, be it 30's Germany or modern Uganda, that can seriously contemplate passing a bill for the mass murder of a section of the population, doesn't really deserve to be called "civilised"?
12. 2011-05-14 01:10  
I don't think #4's comment is particularly out of line. Calling a country "primitive" is hardly racist. I suggest, wiiforyou, that you look that word up. As #11 correctly said, you are the one who played the race card. No one else did.

To me, a society which bases its laws and governance on religion and/or superstition ARE primitive, and yes, that includes that part of the US who invoke the fictional bible at every turn.

If you have to rely on an invisible, unprovable, and almost certainly nonexistent god to underscore your hatred of another human being, then I'm sorry, but "primitive" is about the nicest thing that can be said about you.
13. 2011-05-14 01:11  
#1, to answer your question, the caption is found under a different photo on the page rather than the one it references:

"Top of page: Police use water cannons to spray anti-government protesters with pink dye during demonstrations in the capital Kampala on May 9."
14. 2011-05-14 01:35  
I'm backing BloodyCherry up. Don't these people have enough shit on themselves already? What are they seriously thinking?


Nonetheless, there will always be a strong string of debating that's gonna come out of this article, *but let's bear in mind the severity of the issue and that people are going to suffer out of our debates.

So... let's try not to go too harsh on each other here? =)
Comment edited on 2011-05-14 01:36:44
15. 2011-05-14 03:11  
Parliament closed without having the time to examine this bill.
So safe for the time being!
16. 2011-05-14 08:40  
ref to the pic: is that their way of labelling the gays? lolz
17. 2011-05-14 13:21  
in the end, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/13/uganda-anti-gay-bill-shelved

As an end to my last comment, I posted the above link... Ipark posted what is the current situation... parliament ended... the bill is off the slate... for now. The article is below in full...

"Uganda anti-gay bill pushed out of parliament"

"Draft laws that would have punished homosexuality with death are wiped from the agenda as current sittings wind down."

"David Smith in Johannesburg
guardian.co.uk, Friday 13 May 2011 15.28 BST"

"Uganda's reviled anti-gay bill, which mandates the death penalty in some cases, remains in limbo after parliament adjourned without a debate.

Edward Ssekandi Kiwanuk, the parliamentary speaker, ruled there was no time to take up the bill this session. He has adjourned the parliament and set no date for its return.

A source close to proceedings said parliament could technically come back between now and 17 May but most MPs were leaving for their constituencies. Bills not completed in the old parliament are wiped and must be resubmitted.

Helen Kawesa, spokeswoman for parliament, told Associated Press that the anti-gay bill could come back up for debate in the next parliament but would probably take time to get back to the floor. David Bahati, the MP who authored the bill, had said he would try to move it forward in the next session if it was not voted on this time.

Opponents of the legislation welcomed the setback. Alice Jay, campaign director of the online group Avaaz, said: "The news that the brutal anti-gay law won't be discussed in parliament today is a victory for all Ugandans and people across the world who value human rights.

"This vile bill is a matter of life and death for gay Ugandans, and would have seen the execution, imprisonment and persecution of friends of Avaaz, and thousands of others who have committed no crime at all. We must now ensure this heinous bill can never return to parliament again."

Christopher Senyonjo, a retired Ugandan Anglican bishop, said: "This was a dangerous bill and there is a lot of tension and riots in the country. We feared that they may use this opportunity to do anything to anybody.

"This bill must never see the light of day as the mob could use this to inflict terrible crimes against people. The pressure from people around the world has had a big impact and the resulting influence from the international community has played a very important role in stopping this going forward today."

Kakoba Onyango, a member of parliament, told Associated Press the anti-gay bill had taken so long because President Yoweri Museveni did not back it and human rights groups had criticised it. The US state department this week described it as "odious" and said it should never be passed in any form.

Human Rights Watch said in recent days a parliamentary committee had recommended passage of the bill and retained the death penalty "aggravated homosexuality". It added criminal penalties for "conduct[ing] a marriage ceremony between persons of the same sex".

Graeme Reid, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) programme at Human Rights Watch, said: "It should be scrapped. The committee's recommendations fall wholly short of making this a bill worth parliament's time.

"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."

Comment edited on 2011-05-14 13:33:28
Comment #18 was deleted by its author on 2011-05-14 13:24
19. 2011-05-14 13:32  
11. Kumabro_oz I agree with you that passing murderous legislation is not civilized... civil society that is worth its salt is inclusive and not exclusive.

Uganda needs Kizza Besigye in power... an African Spring-come-Summer-come-Fall-come-Winter... it maybe a long time until he gets there... folk cheering for him loud and loudly after his belated return from Kenya; and in contrast, President Museveni's crock inauguration.

the latest NYT article : http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/14/world/africa/14uganda.html
Comment edited on 2011-05-14 14:02:27
Comment #20 was deleted by its author on 2011-08-13 17:37
21. 2011-05-14 21:15  
You have a poor nation being funded by evangelical groupss who are pressuring them to use religion to run their country. It is the use of money to force a nation to run itself the way the evangelicals want it done.

This has nothing to do with race. It's about power and money.
22. 2011-05-14 21:16  
how sad...
23. 2011-05-14 23:35  
@Will4u...well, if tribalism, rape, violence, dictatorship and such is not considered primitive, i don't know what to say, sticking to my previous post 100%

thanks for the back up guys!
24. 2011-05-15 00:11  
Odd. The issue is Uganda and its murderous tactics. And a few of you prefer to bicker about what is politically correct. The barbarism in Uganda can be called anything you like - its still barbaric. On that point, I believe we can all agree.
#21 It is about power and money, but I would also add a tremendous degree of just plain ignorance.
Ugandans are a lovely, sweet people. Hate and fear unfortunately rests in the hearts of all men
25. 2011-05-15 00:15  
@Will4u, also, you have jump the gun and made a huge assumption about me calling Ugandans primitive = me calling every black people primitive, that is your flaw.

Primitivity has nothing to do with race but one's mindset and behaviour. I would call some Eastern European society backwards (or close to being primitive) for some cases.

The word 'Primitive' means (one of the many definitions, according to TheFreeDictionary): Characterized by simplicity or crudity; unsophisticated...

I merely think anti-gay and the call for gays to be executed is unsophisticated.
Comment #26 was deleted by its author on 2011-08-13 17:37
27. 2011-05-15 07:25  
Hahaha Bloodycherry, interesting that as a second "example" of primitive societies you chose "some Eastern European"...
Interesting that most humans have this urge (reassuring no doubt) to link barbarism with specific societies rather than understand that it's there under every human skin, ready to leap out and surf on wave after wave of conservatism, self-rightneousness, religiosity and other things which are very much alive and well in ANY society, be it governed by Kim Yong-Il, Idi Amin Dada, Milosevic OR George Bush, Berlusconi, Sarkozy and consorts...
Civilization, unfortunately, seems to be as frighteningly thin as the earth's crust, an extraordinary but desperate attempt to grow and maintain all the beauties of life on a big fat ball of lava, hot and vicious as... hell. The furnace doesn't stand corrected or tamed, though. As we all can see it moves and spits constantly so that cataclysms occur on an almost daily basis.
28. 2011-05-15 11:31  
NATO here in Fridae dot com perhaps? hehe

No Action Talk Only ;p lol
Comment #29 was deleted by its author on 2011-08-13 17:37
30. 2011-05-15 19:01  
This is akin to the death penalty for "aggravated left handedness" .... not since adolf hitler was on the rampage has such an inhuman and barbaric policy been put forward.

These people are nazis.
31. 2011-05-15 22:44  
aput83, i agreed with you.
32. 2011-05-16 07:44  
Local opportunists hungry for some dollars from American evangelicals.

Europe got rid of them so they left for the new American territories. Now they are losing ground in US and go for Africa.

I really hope after Africa gets old and tired of their destructive propaganda they will head next for the Moon.
33. 2011-05-16 21:21  
A good clear resolution from the American Psychiatric Association’s legislative body:

"Be It Resolved: That the American Psychiatric Association reaffirms its position that there is no credible scientific evidence that same sex attraction is pathological, chosen, needs “cure,” or entails threat to heterosexual families or to children;
That the American Psychiatric Association condemns societal scapegoating and stigmatization of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people anywhere in the world;
That the American Psychiatric Association condemns criminalization of homosexual behavior and calls upon the Ugandan legislature to reject the Anti-Homosexuality Bill." (wthrockmorton.com)

Kindly take note Singapore and Malaysia.

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