What you need to know:
- The proposed law also gives courts wide powers to order protection for a child deemed likely to engage in homosexuality.
Homosexuals, landlords, brothel proprietors, chief executives of pro-gay organisations, journalists and film directors face imprisonment or fines, ranging from Shs5m to Shs100m, if the new Anti-Homosexuality Bill is enacted in its current form.
Prepared by Bugiri Municipality Member of Parliament Asuman Basalirwa, the Bill gazetted last Friday seeks to criminalise homosexuality as well as its promotion and financing.
Its penalties overall are comparably lesser than those specified in the minister David Bahati-sponsored anti-gay law that court quashed in 2014 on grounds that it was enacted without quorum.
For instance, offences of homosexuality and attempted or aggravated homosexuality which in the older version were punishable with life imprisonment in the proposed legislation carry a maximum 10-year jail term.
The date for tabling the Private Member’s Bill, which follows a grant last week of leave by the House to MP Basalirwa to draft the legislation, is yet to be fixed.
The objectives of the Bill are four-fold: prohibit same-sex sexual relations, strengthen Uganda’s capacity to deal with domestic and foreign threats to the heterosexual family, safeguard traditional and cultural values and protect youth/children against gay and lesbian practice.
Mr Basalirwa, the designated mover, argues that the Bill is necessary to cure inadequacies in the Penal Code Act that provides for unnatural sex, but “lacks provisions on procurement, promoting, disseminating literature and other pantographic materials concerning the offences of homosexuality”.
“As a result, there is a need for a legislation to enhance offences relating to homosexuality and clear provisions for charging, investigating, prosecuting, convicting and sentencing of offenders,” he notes in a preamble justification.
The Bill provides a fine of Shs100m for an entity promoting homosexuality, whether through printing of materials, funding, hosting or complicity, as well as deregistration of such organisation’s chief executive.
Persons who run brothels for homosexuals risk seven years’ imprisonment while landlords who rent property to homosexuals face a year in jail.
There is a provision of five-year imprisonment for anyone convicted of attempted or actual procurement of homosexuality while anyone found guilty of conducting/contracting same-sex marriage risks 10-year imprisonment.
Under the Bill, an editor, journalist, publisher and film director who discloses the identity of a homosexuality victim without authority of court or victim, once convicted, can be fined up to Shs5m.
The proposed law also gives courts wide powers to order protection for a child deemed likely to engage in homosexuality, and also determine the amount of compensation due to a victim of homosexuality by an offender.
“A magistrate’s court may, if satisfied that a child is likely to engage in acts of homosexuality, upon application by any person, issue a protection order,” the draft law reads in part, without specifying the parameters for suspecting a child’s susceptibility.
In the case of foreigners, it provides for the extradition of a homosexual offender.
The remedies in the gazetted Bill, according to the drafters, include a prohibition of marriage between persons of the same sex, penalisation of homosexual behaviour and related practices, stopping promotion of homosexuality and protection and provision of compensation to victims.
In the proposed law, homosexuality is defined as “same-gender or same-sex sexual acts”, broadly indicated to include romance, sexual intercourse and unlawful use of objects for gays and lesbians sex.
In an interview yesterday, Mr Robert Kirenga, the executive director of the National Coalition of Uganda Human Rights Defenders, said the government had got its priorities upside down in pursing gays and lesbians when the country is grappling with motley problems.
“… Amongst the governance problems, the least should be what we do in our privacy,” Mr Kirenga said in a telephone interview, “I would prefer if MPs would focus on issues of corruption and how it affect human rights.”
He added: “ If LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer sexual orientation) is such a big problem in schools and how children are being recruited, then they [government] should task whoever gave them [the schools promoting the practice] a licence to operate and the school head teachers on how that is happening in their schools.”
Uganda’s Constitution recognises marriage as between a man and a woman, Rev Canon Aaron Mwesigye, the director of Ethics In-charge of Religious Affairs at the Ministry of Ethics and Integrity, said.
“I support [MP] Basalirwa and the Legislature for [moving to introduce the anti-homosexuality law],” he said, calling for unspecified additional measures because “laws in this country cannot work alone”.
The man of God also said they plan regular conferences to teach family heads the fundamentals of parenting so that values against homosexuality, which he called a “vice”, are imparted in children early in their lives.
“So, you need to start at family level and teach your children so that they can be able to shun homosexuality in future whether they are in schools or universities,” he said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair morally broken homosexual men and women.”
The push to reintroduce a law to tackle homosexuality has been engineered by leaders of various religions and Parliament.
Uganda is among 77 countries that criminalise gay and lesbian practices, according to the United Nations.
The subject of sexual orientation has lately polarised clerics and believers after Pope Francis, the head of the 1.3 billion Catholics and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, while on a joint visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan last month, declared that laws criminalising homosexuality were “sin … and an injustice”.
The Church of England, from which other Anglican provinces derive, tossed an explosive into the discourse after its governing body on February 9 voted for priests to bless same-sex couples in civil marriages.
In a swift rejoinder, Archbishop Kaziimba of the Province of Church of Uganda, which in 2008 broke ranks with the Episcopal Church of America, as the Anglican Church there is called, over consecration of a gay as bishop, said the Canterbury decision contradicted teachings of theBible and God.
“That [decision to bless same-sex couples] is wrong,” he wrote, “As Church of Uganda we cannot accept that. God cannot bless what He calls sin.”
The fight back was followed with a proclamation by the Inter-Religious Council, an apex forum for leaders of different faiths in Uganda, who asked the government to enact a law similar to the quashed Anti-Homosexuality Act.
During a February 16 event to commemorate the Janani Luwum Day, named so after then Archbishop of Uganda, Rwanda and Boga Zaire slain during Idi Amin’s rule, Archbishop Kaziimba beseeched President Museveni, who was the chief guest, that “… the [Act] you signed previously against homosexuality should be revisited and signed again”..
The President did not directly respond to the request, but told off the West not to compel dissenting countries to “normalise” what he called “deviations”.
“We are not going to follow people who are lost. These Europeans are not normal, they don’t listen. We have been telling them ‘please, this problem of homosexuality is not something that you should normalise and celebrate,” he said, adding, “They (Western countries) don’t listen, they don’t respect other people’s views and they want to turn the abnormal into normal and force it on others. We shall not agree.”
He also revealed that he had disagreed with American government officials over the issue of homosexuality during the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit held in Washington DC last December.
Weeks after the Janani Luwum Day celebrations, Ugandan clerics during an ecumenical service at Parliament revived their request for a specific law to curb homosexuality to which Speaker Anita Among replied that “we … appreciate our promoters of homosexuality for the socio-economic development they have brought to the country, but we don’t appreciate the morals (sic) that they are killing”.
“We don’t appreciate the values of Uganda (sic) that they are destroying, we don’t appreciate their money that they are bringing to destroy our culture. We don’t need their money, we need our cultures,” she said last week, adding, “As … Parliament that passes the laws in this country, we are going to bring a Bill on anti-homosexuality … and I want to request the religious leaders that this time around, be there to see who is who.”
She also said a vote on such a new Bill, which MP Basalirwa has now drafted, will be taken by show of hands so that Ugandan see which of their lawmakers stand for and against homosexuality.
Parliament first enacted an anti-gay legislation in 2013 over claims of foreign-sponsored recruitment in the country. Similar allegations have resurfaced, with a one Elisha Mukisa narrating in widely-shared video clip that homosexuals recruited him, and other students, who were later each paid Shs5m for featuring in a homosexual pornography video upload on www.uganda80.com website.
The site was scrambled once Mr Mukisa went public with his claims against the Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a pro-gay civil society organisation.
The Constitutional Court, which was petitioned by, among others, Museveni’s lawyer Fox Odoi and journalist-turned-a-president’s friend Andrew Mwenda, nullified the old Anti-Homosexuality Act shortly before the President lifted off for the United States on an official visit.
Pro-gay activists confronted him at American hotels and on streets and , upon return to Kampala, Mr Museveni told legislators then intent on reviving the annulled law to “go-slow”, warning that it had foreign policy implications.
However, with lapse of time and allegations of rising homosexual recruitment mainly targeting students, and Mr Mukisa publicly identifying as one victim recruited from a city school at age 17, the demand for the government and educational institutions to act has grown louder.
The National NGO Bureau, the statutory regulator of the civil society sector, in a leaked January 2023 report named a number ofNon-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) it said are suspected of promoting LGBTQI+ in the country.
On a visit a fortnight ago to King’s College Budo, where allegations of students there involving in homosexual acts surfaced in January, Education minister Janet Museveni announced that the government commenced broad inquiries into nation-wide complaints and that those found culpable of promoting gays and lesbians would be punished.
Old wine in new bottle?
• 10 years in jail for aggravated or attempted aggravated homosexuality
• Shs100m penalty for entity promoting homosexuality, whether through printing of materials, funding, hosting or complicity.
• 5 years imprisonment for procurement or attempted procurement of homosexuality by threat
• 10 years jail term for contracting/conducting same-sex marriage
• Courts to determine compensation for homosexuality victim
• Shs5m fine for editors, journalists, publishers and film directors who disclose identity of homosexuality victim without authority
• 7-year imprisonment for those who run brothels for homosexuals while landlords whorent to homosexuals face a year in jail
• Courts can order protection for a child likely to engage in homosexuality
Summary of punishments
Homosexuality Life imprisonment 10 years in jail
Aggravated Homosexuality Life imprisonment 10 years imprisonment
Attempted Homosexuality 7-year jail term 2 years in jail
Attempted aggravated homosexuality Life imprisonment 10 years in jail
Aiding and abetting homosexuality 7 years’ imprisonment 2 years in jail
Contracting same-sex marriage Life imprisonment 10 years in jail
Conducting same-sex marriage Seven-year jail term 10 years imprisonment
Promoting homosexuality 5-7 years’ in jail or Shs100m fine, or both Five-year jail term or Shs100m penalty, or both