Lawmakers hatch plan to reintroduce anti-gays Bill

Saturday December 06 2014
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Anti-gays activist Martin Ssempa and youth celebrate the signing of the anti-gays Bill into law in February. PHOTO BY MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

Fast-tracking the Bill. Some 256 MPs and ministers, including Ethics minister Simon Lokodo, have petitioned the Speaker demanding that the Bill be re-tabled.

The Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, who presided over this week’s Parliament, expressed determination over the passing of the law. Kawempe North MP Latif Ssebaggala leading the plot read out the names of MPs who endorsed a motion in support of the Bill’s reintroduction and called on Parliament to support the Bill to ensure it is passed.

This week, five more legislators signed on the motion from the clerk’s table bringing the total number to now 261.The MPs said they were away when their colleagues were appending their signatures.

The President in February signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law, prompting both joy and condemnation across the world amid pressure and resistance from the Western powers. The President, however, took a bold stance and warned development partners that Uganda was ready to live without their aid.

The same Bill, a private member’s initiative by Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, was however quashed by the Constitutional Court in August on grounds that it was passed without quorum, hence declaring it illegal.

But legislators led by Ssebaggala signed a petition to fast track the re-tabling of the Bill. Some 256 MPs and ministers, including Ethics minister Simon Lokodo, then petitioned the Speaker demanding that the Bill be re-tabled.

MPs are, however, plotting a new Bill and the proposed Bill, a copy of which Sunday Monitor has seen, avoids any overt references to homosexuality, but seems to co-opt sections of the Penal Code, which prescribe, among others, a life sentence for “unnatural sexual practices”. The proposed legislation also expands the definition of “promotion of unnatural sexual practices” and proposes a prison sentence of up to seven years for the promotion of homosexuality.

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All in all, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is a sensitive one and it borders on respect for culture, religious beliefs and norms which are still practiced in the country. Majority of lawmakers are in support of the Bill that would partly determine their fate in Parliament come 2016.

The few MPs that are against the Bill and human rights activists have questioned its compatibility with Uganda’s Constitution and international treaty obligations. They say the law would institutionalise discrimination and is likely to encourage harassment of homosexuals.

Commenting on the Bill, the Uganda Media Council boss, Mr Ofwono Opondo explains that Parliament has all the right to re-table it if they so wish.
“Parliament is independent and the Constitution of Uganda allows the aggrieved to appeal. If the MPs are aggrieved and they want to re-table the Bill, let them go ahead and it will come back to the President’s desk for assent.

Let Parliament do its work .The NRM Caucus is also conducting consultations on the Bill and they will meet in Parliament. The President assented to the law, meaning he had no problem with the content,” he says.

The ball is now in Kadaga’s court to have the final say on MPs’ signatures and have the Bill listed on the order paper as a matter of urgency as more MPs queue to append their signatures on the historic Bill.

This week in Parliament, the Speaker instituted a committee of five MPs headed by the Kinkiizi East MP Chris Baryomunsi to critically examine the funding gaps in the health sector ahead of the next budget process.

Comparing Uganda’s health system with that of other countries in Africa, Kadaga observed that issues of maternal health and infant mortality are still a big burden to the country and called for more budget allocations towards these areas.

Still in Parliament, MPs are investigating the Law Development Centre (LDC) over allegations of poor conduct of its professional advisers and high failure rates.

“The existing laws have created a monopoly of the Law Development Centre in the facilitation of the postgraduate bar course with unacceptable failure rates, unethical conduct of professional advisers, promotion of a state of fear among students, poor structure and design of the bar course, promoting examination malpractice and insufficient seriousness,” Mr Jacob Oboth Oboth (West Budama South) summarised his petition to Parliament.

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