Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament Wants Anti-Homosexuality Bill Debated Next Week

So says the Monitor.

The Speaker of Parliament has directed the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee to present the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2011 on the floor of Parliament.

The committee chairperson, Mr Stephen Tashobya, passed on Ms Rebecca Kadaga’s directive to committee members yesterday as he summoned them to attend next week’s session in person “to have the Bill concluded”.

In her November 13 letter, the Speaker advised Mr Tashobya to be mindful of what she said was the high demand by the public to address homosexuality.

“I write to reiterate my earlier instruction to your committee to expeditiously handle the review of the report on the Bill. As you are aware, there is high demand by the population to address the escalating problem of promoting and recruiting minors into homosexuality,” the letter reads in part.

“This is therefore to inform you that I shall place the Bill on the Order Paper immediately after conclusion of the Oil Bills,” she wrote. Parliament is concluding consideration of the Petroleum (Exploration, Production and Development) Bill as the House breaks off for Christmas recess on December 15, which suggests that after the Bill is hopefully completed by next Tuesday, MPs can expect to debate and probably pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Mr Tashobya said his committee had “a working document [ready] because we had a lot of responses during the public hearings.” The Bill was presented as a Private Members’ Bill by Ndorwa West MP David Bahati in the 8th Parliament and has since become a subject of international discussion, with a number of Western countries threatening to cut aid to Uganda if it is passed.

The working document is a report left over from the 8th Parliament and makes very few changes in the anti-gay bill.  I wrote about the committee report in May, 2011:

A paper designated as the final report of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee was leaked last Thursday, just ahead of Friday’s final session. I have good reasons to believe that the report did come from the committee although I cannot say for certain that the report would have been presented on the floor of the Parliament had the bill gotten that far. You can read the report, converted to a .pdf, by clicking here.

To help see what a revised bill would have looked like, I compared the original Anti-Homosexuality Bill with the report. This version makes the changes called for in the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee report (Click the link). In this version the sections crossed out were in the original bill and those underlined are the ones suggested by the committee.

Even after the changes, the penalty for private, consensual  same-sex intimacy would still be life in jail and the death penalty would remain since it is the penalty provided for aggravated defilement in Uganda. Clauses 4, 7, 8, 14, 16 & 17 were deleted but a new penalty for participating in the marriage of a same-sex couples. Presumably, this would discourage ministers from performing the ceremonies. Even if the bill had been amended in the manner suggested by the committee, the bill would have defined homosexual behavior in a way that criminalized the most modest forms of intimacy with either life in prison or death for HIV positive individuals.

According to the Monitor report, the Speaker wants to have the second reading of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill after the Petroleum Bills are completed. According to today’s agenda, the oil bills were debated in today’s session (click here to read the order paper for today). The listing of business to come does not list the AHB but according to the Monitor, Kadaga is going to put it on the order paper for sometime next week.