Basalirwa, rights lawyer face off over new law

Bugiri Municipality MP Asuman Basalirwa (L) shakes the hand of the executive director Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum, Dr Adrian Jjuuko (R) as director of Human Rights and Peace Centre, Dr. Busingye Kabumba (C) looks on during the Public debate on the newly passed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2023 at Makerere University School of Law on March 22, 2023. PHOTOS/ ISAAC KASAMANI

What you need to know:

  • Dr Jjuuko, also the executive director of Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HURAPF), described the Bill as the greatest enemy of humanity since time immemorial, and that whatever took place in Parliament on Tuesday night was a mockery of human rights.

Bugiri Municipality MP Asuman Basalirwa has faced off with human rights lawyer Adrian Jjuuko over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2023, which was passed by Parliament on Tuesday.
This was during the Anti-Homosexuality Bill dialogue under the theme “Anti-Homosexuality Bill: Protecting the public or oppressing the minorities?”, which was hosted by Makerere University School of Law yesterday.

In his remarks, Mr Basalirwa defended all the provisions of the Bill which now awaits the President’s signature to become law. 
“This Bill is in response to a public outcry, my fellow MPs were telling me we have a serious problem. I have been in schools, and interacted with parents. There was a serious problem so this Bill is timely,” he said as he dared activists to challenge it. 

“I am a human rights activist and a human rights lawyer but I have never seen a law that promotes sexual orientation. Uganda is signatory to different international human rights instruments but I have not seen any of them that promotes sexual orientation. I beg to be educated if there is one,” he added. 
 
The Bill criminalises homosexuality, with offenders receiving a death penalty for aggravated homosexuality and more than 10 years imprisonment for same-sex relationship.
“We would not have any problem with these people if they were ‘eating their things’ in silence but recruiting our children and financing? No. We could not just look on and see our children being lured into such acts,” Mr Basalirwa said.

However, Dr Jjuuko, also the executive director of Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HURAPF), described the Bill as the greatest enemy of humanity since time immemorial, and that whatever took place in Parliament on Tuesday night was a mockery of human rights.
He said it was insane for Parliament to gather and “express mockery” towards the LGBTQ+ (an acronym used to describe lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community through what he described as an unconstitutional Bill. 

He, for example, cited the 2022 Annual Police Crime Report, where more than 8,000 cases of defilement were reported.
“They claimed that they are protecting our children but the Bill won’t protect the children because the biggest problems we have are men who rape young children compared to homosexuality. People are forgetting which laws they need. This law is aimed at fighting citizens because it infringes on people’s privacy, and its implementation alone is hard,” he said.

Students listen to the public debate on the newly passed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2023 at Makerere University School of Law on March 22, 2023.


  
“Article 20 of the Constitution provides that human rights are equal. Homosexuals are just like any other people. Penalising them means direct discrimination,” he added.
In response, Mr Basalirwa said homosexuals enjoy rights.
“They enjoy voting rights, they go to schools, access our services so it is a lie to say that homosexuals don’t enjoy rights here,” he said.

Nothing new in the Bill 
Meanwhile, Ms Mariam Wangadya, the executive director of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), said the Bill has nothing new.
“When you look at the contents of that Bill, it is not any different from the laws we already have in place. It does not introduce anything fundamentally different. Whatever it seeks to cure is already provided for in the existing laws,” she said in an interview with this publication yesterday.

“The Constitution, under Article 31 (2), already speaks about rights of a family and it says ‘marriage between person of the same-sex is prohibited.’Anybody who has never questioned Article 31 has no right to criticise the Bill which was unanimously passed by Parliament,” she added.
 

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