It’s no coincidence that the Ugandan parliament has galvanized new energy for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 at a time when Ugandan citizens are protesting high food and fuel prices and the government is cracking down with violence, repression and disregard for the rule of law. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which AJWS’s partners have courageously tried to kill for over a year, is an unconstitutional attack on the LGBTI community and on Uganda’s citizenry at large. It would criminalize the “promotion of homosexuality,” including the provision of health and other essential services to LGBTI people, with three years in prison, and punish “aggravated homosexuality,” which entails homosexual acts by “serial offenders” and those who are HIV positive with the death penalty.
This renewed push to pass the bill during the current lame-duck session of parliament is a blatant political tactic to divert attention from the deteriorating human rights situation affecting all Ugandans. Over the past month, President Museveni has responded to peaceful protests over skyrocketing commodity prices by arresting opposition leaders, teargassing bystanders and using live ammunition on crowds. His government has done little to respond to the expressed needs of its citizens, who can’t afford food or other basic needs. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill is nothing more than a hateful diversion.
Our partner, the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, a Ugandan alliance of human rights, women’s rights, HIV/AIDS and LGBTI organizations is leading the charge against the bill and spoke before a committee of parliament today. The Coalition stated:
“… it is clear that if the hate-filled Kill the Gays Bill is passed, it will finish the process of burying alive not just the sexual minorities of Uganda, but also all those who support the principles of constitutionalism, human rights for all, inclusivity, and democratic governance…”
The bill has been released from committee and will have its “second reading” on the floor of parliament on Wednesday, which means it could be voted on at that time. There’s no question that the bill will pass if it comes to a floor vote. Museveni has publicly stated that he would veto the bill, but his government’s conduct of late makes it clear that he has no problem violating human rights to maintain power. Passing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and pandering to the country’s hateful climate for LGBTI people would surely garner Museveni increased public approval at a time when he desperately needs it.
It’s important to note that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill isn’t the only dangerous piece of legislation on the horizon. Parliament is also trying to pass an HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Bill that contravenes best practices in HIV prevention and violates human rights by criminalizing the transmission of HIV and establishing mandatory testing. The international community must condemn this discriminatory and harmful legislation with an equally strong voice.
We will keep you updated as we receive updates from our partners on the ground.