Uganda: Committee Chair describes Anti-Homosexuality Bill timetable

This morning I spoke with Stephen Tashobya, the chair of the Ugandan Parliament’s Legal and Affairs committee. This committee has jurisdiction over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. I asked Hon. Tashobya if he had any current plan for action on the AHB. He told me that the Parliament was currently preoccupied with the upcoming Christmas break and then the elections. About the AHB, he said, “So I suppose I can say it will come up after elections which is the 18th of February.”

He said he did not promise that the bill would be next in line, but said

Ideally, what we are trying to do is to ensure that we clear all the bills that are before the committee before the end of this Parliament in May. I am not in a position to say we are going to handle it in this time framework, but we are trying to get out all of the bills by the end of May, including that one [the AHB].

Mr. Tashobya confirmed that if the bill is not considered during this Parliament, then a new bill would need to be tabled in the next one. He then outlined the procedure he envisioned for the bill.

What I can say is that there is special interest in that bill, both for and against and we are mindful of the interest in that bill. We are looking first of all in the context of the Parliament and the public interest, we are trying to see how we can handle it. We shall have public hearings, where all come and give their views and finally the committee report will take into account those views we are receiving from the public.

Mr. Tashobya said that the committee report would be presented then to the Parliament as a whole and discussed prior to a second and third reading. Often the required second and third reading occurs on the same day, followed by the vote, also on that same day. If passed, the bill is sent on to President Museveni. At that point, Museveni could do nothing and allow the bill to become law or he could send it back to Parliament if there were elements he did not like. However, according to Mr. Tashobya, that would be “unusual” saying, “In the life of this Parliament, he has not sent a bill back.”

For opponents of the AHB, it appears that the public opportunity to speak out will be in a relatively short window in the public hearings convened by the Legal and Parliamentary Committee sometime between late February and early May.