Parliament yesterday officially allowed the start of a process which will see the reintroduction of a much stricter law against homosexuality.
It was revealed that MPs David Bahati (Ndorwa West) and Benson Obua Ogwal (Moroto County) have written to Parliament asking for a date to be set aside for the re-tabling of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
The law was struck down by the Constitutional Court on August 1 after the judges agreed with a group of petitioners that it was enacted without quorum in Parliament.
Mr Bahati regains the initiative on a Bill he had first tabled in 2009, much to the chagrin of Western countries, which denounced it as an affront to human rights and reacted by cutting donor aid when it was passed into law in December last year.
Yesterday, as the House resumed from a mini-recess, Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah, said the two MPs have been granted leave of Parliament to allow them time to prepare the Bill, triggering excitement among members.
According to the House Rules of Procedure, once the Bill is re-tabled, it will be referred to a committee where revisions are considered, brought back to the House for debate before proceeding to the third reading- the final stage before the Bill is passed.
Mr Oulanyah also indicated that a drive to register MPs in support of the reintroduction of the Bill had garnered the support of 254 MPs - pushing the number much higher than the required one third of all 376 MPs entitled to vote.
Shortly after the court nullification, lawmakers led by Kawempe North MP Latif Ssebagala began collecting signatures in support of a plan to immediately reintroduce the law.
They wanted the House to suspend handling of the ongoing Budget process, with a proposal that the new Bill be the first on the Order Paper, a request that was turned down yesterday.
“We are now focusing on the Budget process and the Bill was already here and we passed it into law. If it had still been within Parliament, it would still be property of Parliament and we would have done whatever necessary to correct the anomalies,” Mr Oulanyah said.
“So when we finish the Budget and as soon as the movers of this Bill are ready, we will proceed. When it is introduced, we will handle it appropriately about those issues that were raised that caused the nullification,” he added. Under Uganda’s Penal Code Act, sexual acts “against the order of nature” are already criminalised.
By press time, it was unclear whether the two MPs will work alongside a nine-member committee led by Vice President Edward Ssekandi which was proposed by the NRM Parliamentary Caucus sitting on August 12 to look into the human rights issues raised against the law.
President Museveni is reported to have advised MPs to go slow in their quest since the issue was delicate.
Mr Bahati and Mr Ogwal were not available for comment yesterday as they were held up by the budget debate.
Promise detailed review
In the letter that Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah read, MPs David Bahati and Benson Obua also promised to look into the other issues raised by pro-gays activists in their petition but which were not disposed of by court. Judges only addressed themselves to the prayer about lack of quorum.