Ugandan news websites on Tuesday reported that the controversial “kill the gays” anti-LGBT legislation is now at the top of the government’s agenda and could be debated any day, with a potential vote on the bill that calls for the death penalty for LGBT members, in the near future.
“Prepare your solidarity actions, please. The time is dawning on us,” the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, an alliance of groups opposing the bill, said in a press statement.
The coalition said that “the bill is likely to be tabled anytime this week or early next week. It has moved up to No.1 on the order of business to follow. This means that after parliament is done with the order paper business, [the bill]could jump onto the order paper officially.”
Ugandan observers say that although it is now at the top of the agenda, the government is still debating and looking at other legislation, meaning the bill is likely to be discussed only on Thursday.
Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga said last year the new legislation will outlaw homosexuality and criminalizes the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, “would pass by the year’s end.” It didn’t, but could in the next week.
The bill aims to put into the national penal code provisions that would continue to criminalize the “offense of homosexuality.”
It was first introduced before Ugandan Parliament in October 2009. At the time, strong mobilization of civil society organizations as well as international governments and institutions enabled to halt the debate and set the bill aside for more than two years.
However, in February this year, it was reintroduced before the Ugandan Parliament in its original version.
“With Ms. Kadaga’s recent declarations, the threat of its quick adoption is weighing more than ever over all Ugandan lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people as well as on human rights organizations, and in particular those working for the protection of LGBTI persons’ rights,” FIDH said in their statement condemning the move.
“If adopted by the Ugandan Parliament, this bill will not only further entrench discrimination and inequality before law, but it will also be a sword of Damocles more dangling over all Ugandan LGBTI citizens’ head as well as over their relatives, friends and more generally those defending their rights. It has to be rejected unconditionally,” said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.
Desmond Tutu has also voiced concerns over the legislation, this week calling on the government to end its crackdown on human rights and dismiss the bill immediately.
FIDH has been strong in its continued attacks over the bill.
“Although lack of transparency surrounds the bill’s current content, information gathered by FIDH clearly suggest that no substantial changes have been made to the 2009 text. In the original version, the Bill contained a series of severe provisions. The one which remains of utmost concern is that providing death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”, in case of “same sex sexual acts” with someone under 18 or with “a person with disability”, of repeated conviction, or if the “offender is a person living with HIV”.
Besides, this bill is putting at high risk civil society activists as well as doctors working with LGBTI persons on HIV and in the field of sexual health, and even parents and teachers, as complicity with or failing to “report” those who are, or believed to be LGBTI are severely sanctioned. This Bill further shocks by its extraterritorial jurisdiction provision making any Ugandan citizen living abroad likely to be charged and extradited,” it said.
“This bill and the debate surrounding its reintroduction before Parliament are symptomatic of the more general hindrances to civil and political rights prevailing in Uganda. In a State of Law, authorities are expected to guarantee and protect the rights of citizens, not to persecute and discriminate them. If passed, this bill will seriously jeopardize fundamental freedoms and represent a setback for our country,” denounced Sidiki Kaba, FIDH Honorary President.
FIDH considers that the existing laws and the proposed Bill seriously contravene to Uganda’s national and international human rights commitments and obligations, in particular with regard to the national Constitution – which provides for equality and freedom from discrimination, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
“Our organization calls on Ugandan authorities to reject this bill unconditionally, immediately cease homophobic statements, and condemn stigmatization and hate campaigns openly relayed by some media,” it added.