Parliament red flags Kasese’s same-sex by-law

Members of parliament during the plenary session at parliament yesterday on Tuesday. PHOTO | DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • Deputy House Speaker Thomas Tayebwa yesterday slammed officials from the Rwenzori district, saying the “malicious bylaws” they were attempting to enact to reorganise homosexuals and transgender people as minorities contravenes the national laws.

Several officials yesterday denied having knowledge of a by-law the municipal council was attempting to pass to legalise same-sex relationships in Kasese District.

In a statutory instrument dated September 16, 2022, the municipal council moved to pass by-laws to provide for enforcement of the human rights and freedoms of the marginalised population as well as increasing access to HIV/TB services in Kasese Municipality.

Deputy House Speaker Thomas Tayebwa yesterday slammed officials from the Rwenzori district, saying the “malicious bylaws” they were attempting to enact to reorganise homosexuals and transgender people as minorities contravenes the national laws.

“I want to make it very clear, there is no local government that can pass a bylaw that contravenes national laws,” Mr Tayebwa warned.

A document of the statutory instrument leaked and went viral on social media hours before Mr Tayebwa’s address to Parliament.

However, officials opted to feign ignorance. Mr Elias Byamugisha, the Kasese chief administrative officer, said he doubted such a bylaw was in the offing.

“I just got a call from the Solicitor General’s office Fort Portal and a Minister of Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu inquiring about it,” he revealed, adding, “I am consulting the municipal council and will make an official statement about it.”

The development comes against the backdrop of Tuesday’s concerns raised by Mr Tayebwa over the deterioration of morals in schools. The Deputy Speaker said he was getting “painful stories” about school children being forced into homosexuality.

In 2021, Parliament passed the sexual offences Bill that criminalises same-sex relationships. It essentially reiterated sections of legislation first enforced in the country by British colonial rule.

In 1950, Uganda got its first modern law criminalising same-sex sexual relations under section 145 of the Penal Code Act cap 120. The section outlawed any unnatural offences, which were described to be any sexual acts against the order of nature.

Over the last two decades, however, the Global North has vehemently insisted that sexual minorities must be accorded rights to live openly without discrimination. This has not been without pushback from countries in the Global South such as Uganda. The country has found itself caught in a panic over same-sex relationships after episodes in a government-owned school and private school thrust the issue in the news cycle.


Commenting about the latest episode, Mr Swaib Ukash—the speaker of Kasese Municipal Council—said Mr Tayebwa had “misguided” Parliament.

“The council I preside over has never attempted to enact any bylaw promoting LGBTQ,” Mr Ukash tweeted.

Asked to explain the veracity of the statutory document, Mr Ukash said he would release a statement today.

However, Mr Ukash’s statement appeared to fall on thin ice as Mr Godfrey Baluku Kabyanga, the junior Information and National Guidance minister, and councillors who spoke to this paper confirmed the veracity of the same.

“As soon as I heard about that motion about a month ago, I talked to the municipal speaker to withdraw it because they were discussing an illegality,” Mr Kabyanga said.

The minister suggested that the municipal speaker had been “compromised” and that some of the council executives he spoke to were adamant.

“Most of the councillors were against it. I was told that when the speaker put the question on that motion, the nays were overwhelming but the speaker ruled in favour of the ayes,” he added.

The minister’s statement was partly corroborated by mayor Chance Kahindo, who said HRAPF had tried to convince some councillors and the speaker to allow homosexuals, sexual workers and transgender to be recognised in Kasese to avoid being discriminated against when they come to health facilities .

“It’s true an NGO approached the speaker and some councillors to convince them to pass such a bylaw but we rejected it because they are not recognized,” he said.

 NGO on the spot

The controversial bylaw was facilitated by Human Rights Advocacy and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), Mr Tayebwa told Parliament before directing the Internal Affairs ministry to investigate the local NGO’s activities.

“I want to alert you that attempts are being made from all corners because the money from these groups seems to be a lot and, also, this is not a simple fight. They are going to target us but we must stand firm,” he said, revealing that HRAPF had sponsored the Kasese council sitting that attempted to pass the bylaws.

Mr Adrian Jjuuko, the executive director of HRAPF, admitted they were actively involved in human rights works in the district. He, however, said their focus was on access to HIV and TB services.

“We do support non-discriminatory access to HIV services and so we would support any law to that end. That is not a promotion of homosexuality. It is the promotion of access to HIV services for all persons in the country and it is perfectly legal work,” he told Daily Monitor.

Some of the councillors this paper spoke to said the bylaw was brought before the council.

“I personally attended this council, and it was an extraordinary council. Those LGBTQ guys are the ones who even sponsored and paid allowances for the councillors,” an official told Daily Monitor in confidence.

A scrutiny of documents this paper has seen suggests that the parties behind the bylaw had attempted to clothe it in Section 39 of the Local Government Act that stresses the strengthening of access to HIV/TB services in health facilities for key populations.

On September 9, 2022, a council sitting referred the bylaw to the social services committee for scrutiny, according to Ms Jolly Bira—the secretary for social services.

A copy of the proposed by-law that was leaked on social media. Photo / Courtesy

“I want to report to this honourable house that the committee in a meeting held on December 13, found that the government of Uganda does not support in any way the activities of transgender and homosexuals and thus recommends that the two categories of transgender and homosexuals be removed from the interpretation of the bylaw,” Ms Biira told the council on December 16.

She further revealed that transgender and homosexuals have been gazetted under the list of marginalised groups in the country.

“The committee also suggests that phrase marginalised population is replaced by key population for the bill to fit within the sense of the categories and that PWDs be included on the list of marginalised groups in case the wording ‘marginalized population’ is maintained. The byelaw was not budgeted for and the health department should take up sensitisation of the masses on the byelaw and budget for in ensuing financial year,” Ms Biira said.

However, there appeared to have been divergence of opinion as Mr Herbert Bwambale, another secretary for social services, also submitted in favour of the motion.

“Mr Speaker, Rule 80 mandates that after the motion for the second reading has been made and seconded, the Speaker shall allow the chairperson of the committee present to the council a report of the committee on the Bill to allow debate,” Bwambale said.

“It is my pleasure that you allow me to read the Bill for the second time to enable members to submit their opinions.”

Mr Bwambale’s submission also revealed that September 9, 2022, sitting had been facilitated by HRAPF.

Mr Jjuuko yesterday told this newspaper that HRAFP was a legal aid service provider that was engaging different state institutions, including Parliament, on laws that affect criminalised and marginalised groups.

“We have engaged parliament variously on laws including the Sexual Offences Bill and our position has always been clear that we seek laws that protect everyone,” he said.

Bukonzo West lawmaker Atkins Katusabe said the purported pro-gay bylaw is not a representation of the Kasese community.

“Kasese is a highly religious community. Kasese upholds the value systems and I don’t want that to define the people of Kasese,” Mr Katushabe said.

Government’s stand

Minister Kabyanga yesterday said he had advised the Kasese municipal town clerk to seek advice from the Solicitor General in Fort Portal on the bylaw.

Local Government minister Raphael Magyezi said all local government Bills for bylaws must be sent to the line ministry, which then sends them to the Attorney General for scrutiny.

“Once accepted by both offices, I then send it back to the respective council for approval. If found inconsistent with national laws, I communicate to the district the position of government, giving grounds of rejection of the Bill,” Mr Magyezi said.

The minister said he had not received any Bill for a bylaw from Kasese seeking to legalise homosexuality in the district.

“If it comes we shall guide them accordingly. Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda,” he added. He lauded the Deputy Speaker for moving fast.

HRAPF boss speaks out on Kasese gay motion

Dr Adrian Juuko, the executive director Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), said: “We are not based in Kasese to make the point clear. It’s not that we do not engage Kasese but there are many ways we can engage through municipalities and cities on different issues where we need local government to engage and we do engage them.

So, we are not denying that we don’t do anything in Kasese but  the council of Kasese said that they are not working on anything concerning that motion or  passing any motion and they have never passed such a motion, so can we say we are planning to pass something the people are not willing to accept.

Basically, any law that promotes non-discrimination and marginalisation whether in Parliament or municipality we will support it in terms of asking people whether the law will be good.

We do engage the local government in Kasese because it is part of our legal work. About the motion you have to speak to the Kasese municipal council about that motion.  But the Kasese people have denied the law. Why don’t they believe Kasese? 

Basically the parliament is twisting around. It’s not the motion the council is discussing. It’s completely a different thing the way parliament is saying.

If they are thinking that we are sponsoring such a motion, why don’t they listen to Kasese instead of saying that we are sponsoring such a motion.

But laws on equality and non-discrimination are the laws we are supporting, but I think the law they are talking about is the law of HIV service and access to HIV services for everyone, that’s the law we are working on. 

This is the law we are working on in the entire country, but not the law the Parliament is talking about.

Laws promoting services for key populations suffering from HIV are not necessarily LGBT. As I told you we are working with groups that are marginalised and that include LGBTI, sex workers among others.

The Parliament  and others speculate around making it that we are promoting homosexuality, changing laws, we don’t have capacity to change laws in this country, it’s done by council and Parliament. So how would we sponsor such and we are not in that position. We do support laws that have access to HIV services and we are based in Kampala and we do engage other municipalities.

What they say...

Dr Mary Juliet Nnanoozi, Makerere University staff.

Homosexuality causes the individual to involve in anal sex. It affects their anal sphincters which lose their ability to tighten. Their waste start leaking hence the need for the use of pampers.

Dr Christine Sekaggya Wiltshire, public health specialist

This may lead to transmission of HIV/Aids, especially if it involves unprotected sex. Even with a man-woman sexual encounter, there is still transmission and remember these organs are not meant for sex.

Sophie Nassala, teacher 

I had a conversation with the director of Ndere Troupe and he said Africa’s biggest problem is that our confidence was taken from us by the colonialist who showed us that Satan is black and angels and Jesus are white. That is why Africans bleach.

Mr Khalid Ssimbwa, chairperson of Private School Owners in Wakiso District.

Our challenge is that no one is willing to speak about it. Those who speak out, receive threats. Whenever such information comes out it is in the public domain for a short while and it vanishes.

Remmy Kirunda, Lecturer at Makerere University Business School

As a parent, it scares me because it is against our culture. God created Adam and Eve. Otherwise, He would have created for him (Adam) another man. Some people are trying to force us to accept that as normal.

Frances Ddungu Lawyer

The main problem is that we are focusing on issues that do not matter let us address the things affecting our people such as poverty and illiteracy. Let us look at our actual needs and handle them otherwise we can survive without sex.

Ibrahim Kintu, registrar

We shouldn’t gloss over this. Let’s address the issue as it comes. It is here, it is in Africa. The recruits are here and they are carrying large sums of money claiming they are promoting freedom of expression and association yet they are destroying us.

Reporting by Jacobs Odongo Seaman, Esther Oluka and Alex Ashaba, Karim Muyobo