You engage in homosexuality, you rot in jail, according to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill passed by Parliament on Friday.
An excited Parliament debated and overwhelmingly passed the Bill which criminalises sexual intercourse between same-sex partners.
The legislation provides for a sentence of life imprisonment for anyone convicted of homosexuality, which covers gays and lesbians. A proposal to put the punishment to 14 years in jail was rejected by the House.
According to the new law, a person commits homosexuality if he penetrates the anus or mouth of another person of the same sex with his penis or any other sexual device.
The offence is also deemed to have been committed if he or she uses any object or sex device to penetrate or stimulate sexual organs of a person of the same sex or if he or she touches another person with intent to commit the act of homosexuality.
“A person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for life,” the passed Bill reads in part.
The MPs say legislation is to protect the traditional family setting by prohibiting sexual relations by persons of the same sex and to strengthen the nation’s capacity to check emerging threats to traditional family values.
However, the law was passed without quorum despite Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi’s plea that Parliament was not sufficiently constituted to vote on the Bill.
“The issue of quorum cannot be overlooked. I have raised the issue of quorum. You can’t continue voting on this Bill when the issue of quorum has been raised,” Mr Mbabazi said but was disregarded by the Speaker and MPs.
According to Parliament rules of procedure, if a member raises the quorum issue during a vote, the Speaker is supposed to ascertain whether the House has the quorum to vote on the subject.
Rules 23(3) states: “At any time when a vote is to be taken, the Speaker shall ascertain whether the members present in the House form a quorum for the vote to be taken. If he or she finds that the number is less, the Speaker shall suspend the proceedings for the House for an interval of fifteen minutes, and the bell shall be rang.”
The Bill was introduced in Parliament on October 31, 2011 and its supporters argued yesterday that Ugandans had waited too long for it to be passed.
“Today is going to be a very good determinant for Ugandans. They have been anxiously waiting and I remember last year we promised them that it will be passed before the year ended. But that did not happen,” Mr Benson Obua (UPC Moroto) said at the beginning of the debate.
However, West Budama MP Fox Odoi vowed to challenge the law in court, arguing it violates human rights.
In their minority report on the Bill, Mr Odoi and three colleagues had argued that homosexuality is already outlawed under sections 145 to 150 of the Penal Code Act.
Mr David Bahati (Ndorwa West), the mover of the Bill, said: “I want to thank the Speaker for the courage she exhibited because passing this Bill means protecting our cultures, marriages and the family institution. I want to thank all those who have been supportive of this Bill that shall protect the future of this country.”
Pastor Martin Sempa of Makerere Community Church, said: “I am grateful that for four years, we have been vilified that the Speaker, Bahati and Obua took a strong stand to pass the Bill. We were, however, shocked that the Prime Minister stood in opposition.”
13:23: Parliament has passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009, which proposes life imprisonment for homosexual acts.
A proposal for a 14-year-sentence for those convicted for homosexual acts, which the Bill criminalises, was rejected by Members of Parliament who instead maintained the life imprisonment proposal.
After voting to pass the Bill into law MPs asked the President to assent to it fast enough so it becomes law. They also passed a motion thanking the House Speaker for the “gift”.
The Bill is the third to be passed in less than twenty four hours, after the passing of the Plant Variety Protection Bill, 2010, this morning and the Anti-Pornography Bill, 2011, on Thursday.