Media report: Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill on Parliament’s Agenda Next Week

According to the UG Pulse:

The Anti Homosexuality bill 2009 and the Marriage and Divorce bill are due for debate when parliament resumes business next week.

The two controversial bills that raised public debate during the 8th Parliament are up for consideration when the Business committee of the House sits next week.

In a letter to MPs on the committee from the office of the Clerk to Parliament, the meeting slated for Monday next week is expected to consider the legislative programme for the 3rd meeting of the 1st session of the 9th Parliament.

The Anti-Homosexuality bill 2009, moved by Ndorwa West MP, David Bahati is one of the bills to be considered on the agenda, despite calls from international human rights activists, donors and gays, out rightly rejected the bill.

Also to be considered is the Marriage and Divorce Bill 2009, which is being pushed for by women rights activists to reform and consolidate laws relating to marriage, separation and divorce.

However religious leaders have rejected the bill, noting that the clause that recognizes cohabitation as a form of marriage is in breach of their religious beliefs.

Other bills for consideration are the Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Control bill, the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Bill, Anti-Counterfeiting Goods bill, as well as the Companies bill.

If I understand this article correctly, what will happen Monday is that the Business Committee will meet to determine when the bills carried over from the 8th Parliament will be debated. One of those bills carried over is the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

This meeting should be watched closely. The Speaker of the House could delay the bill or she could encourage the members to consider it promptly. I wrote about this process back in October, 2011. At that time, Parliament spokeswoman Helen Kawesa laid out the procedure:

Yesterday, I reported that the Parliament of Ugandavoted to return unfinished bills from the Eighth Session to business in the current session. One of those bills specifically referenced was the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

This morning I spoke with Parliament Spokeswoman, Helen Kawesa, who told me that no date had been set for debate on the anti-gay measure. “The Business Committee will meet to decide what bills are considered. Then they will be listed on the daily Order Paper,” Kawesa explained. The Business Committee is chaired by Speaker of the House Rebecca Kadaga and made up of all other committee chairs. Currently, no date has been set for this committee to consider a schedule for the bills returned from the Eighth Parliament.

I also spoke briefly to Stephen Tashobya, chair of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee. His committee prepared a report on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in May and recommended passage with some minor changes. He had no comment on the status of the anti-gay bill since he has been traveling.

According to Kawesa, the Business committee could recommend that the anti-gay bill go back to committee or it could recommend that the former committee report become the basis for debate in the Parliament. Apparently, the return of the bill to the floor is not automatic. The Speaker has some ability to delay it or expedite it. The decision of the Business committee may signal how quickly the bill will move.

The committee report from Tashobya’s committee left the severe aspects of the bill intact, including the death penalty and life in prison (see an analysis here).

It seems the Parliament is determined to take up the bill over the objections of the Executive branch.