London, 23 December 2013
On 20 December 2013, the Ugandan Parliament passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, after it was unexpectedly scheduled for a vote when the majority of MPs were not present. The Bill, which makes same-sex sexual conduct an offence punishable by life imprisonment, was passed in Parliament despite Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi expressing concern that there was not a quorum. The news is the latest blow for the equality of all regardless of sexual orientation around the globe, and demonstrates the level of discrimination and prejudice faced by homosexuals in Uganda.
ERT has, together with many human rights and LGBT organisations, been vociferously advocating the firm rejection of the Bill by Uganda’s lawmakers since it was initially tabled in 2009. The original Bill not only made same-sex sexual conduct punishable by life imprisonment, but also made certain same-sex sexual acts punishable by death, including where the person committing the act was HIV positive. Whilst the death sentence will no longer apply to any acts under the Bill as passed by Parliament, the possibility of life imprisonment remains. Furthermore, the Bill contains a number of other provisions which violate the rights and dignity of homosexuals. For example, the Bill makes it an offence punishable by imprisonment to fail to report an offence under the Bill and also prescribes imprisonment for the “promotion of homosexuality”.
In 2009, ERT submitted a legal brief to the Ugandan parliament and to President Yowere Museveni, setting out the multiplicity of ways in which the Bill was in violation of both international human rights law and the Ugandan Constitution. ERT again had occasion to write to the President with its views when the Bill became the subject of Parliamentary debate in January 2012. ERT finds it depressing that this Bill has not yet been consigned to history and is appalled both at the Bill itself and the manner in which it has been passed. ERT reiterates its concern that it is imperative that the Bill never becomes law and urges President Yowere Museveni not to sign it into law.
Sylvia Tamale, Member of ERT’s Board of Trustees, said:
“The bill was sneaked into parliament as it was not on the Order Paper for the day's business and the House lacked the requisite quorum. However, these technical anomalies are not important as they're quite easily rectifiable. Obviously, the Speaker, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, had notified the religious fundamentalists who filled the gallery as the bill was passed. The Christmas present may have come one year late, but she delivered it! She has political ambitions and will stop at nothing to realise her goals; it's bare-knuckled populist politics, pure and simple. Kadaga obviously has no qualms about climbing to power on the backs of the most vulnerable and marginalized. Despite this setback, this law will face the full panoply of legal and constitutional challenges domestically and in the region.”
To read the ERT’s Legal Brief to the President on the original 2009 Anti-Homosexuality Bill, click here