Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill to be Tabled in Parliament Today – UPDATED

See Updates below:

According to Parliament spokeswoman, Helen Kawesa, David Bahati’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill is on the agenda to be tabled for a first reading in today’s session of Parliament.

Kawesa said, “The bill will go through a new process again. It is a new Parliament.” This means that the bill will be referred today to a committee for study and recommendations. According to the Kawesa, the entire process of a first reading, referral to committee, public hearings and then a committee report to Parliament will be followed. She said, according to the rules of Parliament, the bill cannot be passed today.

She said the bill was basically the same bill as was almost considered in the 8th Parliament. She had no explanation for why the bill was not being considered where it was stalled back in May, 2011.

UPDATE: 8:15am – According to a person in the plenary session of Parliament, Speaker Kadaga said the bills renewed from the 8th Parliament will be read for the first time today but reports on the bills from the 8th Parliament will be used as a basis for moving toward a 2nd reading and debate. If true, this means that the time from first reading to second reading, debate and possible passage will be much shorter than would be true if a new bill was introduced.

UPDATE: 11:05am – There was a rumor that David Bahati would ask for a special action of Parliament to make today’s introduction count as a 2nd reading of the bill, thus allowing discussion and a possible vote. However, according to Ms. Kawesa, Parliament has concluded for the day with no further action on the AHB. In addition, it appears that similar Parliamentary rules will apply to the timing of a second reading as was applied to the first reading in 2009. This means that a minimum of two weeks must pass before the second reading can be accomplished.

Based on reports from Parliament in October, 2011, it was anticipated that the anti-gay measure would be considered by the new Parliament without repeating the first reading. During the October 2011 session, the Parliament voted to return unfinished business from the 8th Parliament to the current session. At that time, Kawesa said that Speaker of the House Rebecca Kadaga’s 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. Based on the Kawesa’s statement today, the bill is starting over in committee.

The original committee report from Stephen Tashobya’s Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee left the severe aspects of the bill intact, including the death penalty and life in prison (see an analysis here; here is what the bill would look like if all of the committee’s changes were made).

Today’s order paper is below. Note that the bill is slated for a first reading (click to enlarge).

The AP just dropped this report (9:35am):

Uganda’s anti-gay bill reintroduced in parliament

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — A lawmaker in Uganda is reintroducing an anti-gay bill that received wide condemnation, including from President Barack Obama.

The bill was reintroduced Tuesday by David Bahati, the bill’s primary backer. It was originally introduced in 2009 but has never come before the full parliament for a vote. The original draft legislation languished in a committee of parliament as the Ugandan government grappled with the international opposition it generated.

The original draft called for the death penalty for some homosexual acts, one of the reasons the bill received so much attention. Bahati told The Associated Press last year that he is willing to drop that provision if that is the recommendation of a parliament committee.

UPDATE: 11:30am – According Melanie Nathan’s interview with David Bahati this morning, the original AHB was re-introduced this morning without changes. Bahati told her that the committee would be recommending changes in the course of their work.

Full text of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 as introduced on October 14, 2009 and today.

If the initial committee report were implemented in the coming days, the AHB would look like this.

UPDATE: NTV report 2/7/12

UPDATE: 2/8/12 – Parliamentary research service staffer Charles Tuhaise told me this morning that the bill introduced in Parliament yesterday was the original bill first introduced in October, 2009.  Any amendments will come via affirmative vote on the floor of Parliament after the 2nd reading.


Ugandan MPs Cheer Introduction of Original Anti-gay Bill

No Date Set for Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Yesterday, I reported that the Parliament of Uganda voted 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).

No change of status for Uganda's anti-gay bill

Yesterday, I cited reports that Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill had been postponed. Today, Parliamentary spokeswoman Helen Kawesa was unable to confirm that report. She cited a possible “mix-up of information” and said that she was unaware of any meeting to set an agenda for bills to be debated after the budget process is finished.
Noting that Speaker of the House and Business committee chair, Rebecca Kadaga was out of the country yesterday, Kawesa expressed doubts that the Business committee met to set any final agenda for upcoming debate. Kadaga returned this morning and was presiding over the budget discussions.
Ms. Kawesa said that she had no knowledge of a decision to require MP David Bahati to request permission from Parliament to reintroduce the anti-gay measure. As of now, she said, “the bill was tabled in the House and the committee report has not been presented.” The next step will be for the bill to be read a second time with amendments possible at that time. However, she added, “As far as I know, no agenda has been set for that bill.”
There were reports that a meeting had been set for yesterday to set an agenda. Apparently the postponement was the meeting and not specifically the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Ugandan MPs vow to pass Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Despite Cabinet’s wish to shelve the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, Ugandan MPs voiced defiance in a Daily Monitor article today,

Members of Parliament yesterday accused Cabinet of bowing to pressure and described the Executive’s decision to block the gays Bill as “moral corruption”.

The lawmakers said it was immoral for government to think that donor funds matter more than traditional values and vowed to push for the Bill and ensure that it is passed even without the support of government. “Whether they want or not, we are going to pass it. For government to come up and throw out such a Bill means we are living in a crazy world,” said Mr Andrew Allen (Bugabula North).

Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, the architect of the Bill, says Cabinet cannot throw out his Bill because it is now property of Parliament and insists that he is going to push for it.

As I reported yesterday, Parliament spokeswoman Helen Kawesa said the bill was in the jurisdiction of Parliament. Today, MPs echoed her words.

Prior to the move, the international community had put pressure on government by threatening to cut aid if government passes the Bill. Ms Betty Amongi (MP Oyam South) says Cabinet has given Parliament a chance to exercise and prove its independence and not allow donor influence to “also jeopardize its works.”
The Anti-homosexuality Bill is a private members Bill and Shadow Attorney General, Abdu Katuntu (MP Bugweri) said Cabinet cannot throw out a Bill it didn’t bring. “The only option they have is to come and oppose it on the floor of the House,” he said.

No action on Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality bill expected this week

Scroll to the bottom for updates.
In contrast to reports attributed to the BBC (at 14:20) that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill will soon be taken up by Uganda’s new Parliament, a parliamentary spokeswoman denied today that any action has been considered. When asked about the BBC report that the Ninth Parliament had inherited three bills, including the anti-gay bill, parliamentary spokewoman, Helen Kawesa said, “I don’t know where that news is coming from. No one has said anything here about it.”
Kawesa said the Ninth Parliament was just getting started, and elected Rebbecca Kadaga to the post of Speaker, the first woman to hold that position in Uganda’s history. Kawesa said that bills will not be considered during this initial period when committees are being formed and chairs of those committes are appointed. She also confirmed that no motion to re-introduce or continue bills had been made.
Former chair of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, Stephen Tashobya agreed saying, “We need to get a Cabinet in place, and get committees together.” He said the leadership of the ruling party, the NRM, will appoint committee chairs and organize committees from scratch. Tashobya said he was not sure if he would return as the chair of the committee that recommended passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in the Eighth Parliament. Tashobya said he was unaware of the BBC report and said no action was anticipated on any bills for at least “a week or ten days.”
While I cannot confirm the BBC report, it is certainly possible that the reporter, Joshua Male, spoke with MPs who want to enact the unfinished bills and hope they are reintroduced. At this point, however, formal action is not on the agenda.
Although nothing appears imminent, the situation is not predictable. In the waning hours of the former Parliament, David Bahati speculated that the new Speaker might cause certain bills to be carried over. The new Speaker does have some incentive to carry over the Marriage and Divorce Bill and might also include the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, perhaps in exchange for support on getting the Marriage and Divorce bill passed.
UPDATE: The Public Order Management Bill is the first bill that President Museveni’s administration wants the Ninth Parliament to consider. Note in this Monitor report that the government supporter does not expect passage until July or August.

The former State minister for Internal Affairs, Mr Matia Kasaija, confirmed yesterday in an interview that he is working to make sure the Bill is passed.
“Be assured I want it off my desk as soon as the 9th Parliament settles to work. I would have wanted it passed by July or latest before the end of August,” Mr Kasaija said.

This bill will most likely be a priority as the NRM supported Speaker begins developing a legislative agenda.
UPDATE: This Daily Monitor article reports that a handful of bills, including the Anti-Homosexuality Bill will be reintroduced in Parliament during this new session.

First-term MPs will, however, face challenges in dealing with the unfinished 2011/12 budget scrutiny and other key Bills in the House. Some of the Bills expected to be returned to the House include; The Retirement Benefits Sector Liberalisation, Bill 2011, Anti-Gay Bill, Marriage and Divorce Bill, HIV/Aids Prevention and Control Bill, Regional Governments Bill, among others.

What is not clear to me is how this reporter means, “returned.” I fully expect the bills to be reintroduced, perhaps in amended form. This unconfirmed report suggests that there are political motives for the reintroduction. However, the procedural question is whether or not private members such as Bahati will need to go through the process of getting permission first before he tables the bill. If the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 is simply returned to the newly organized Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, and the movement of the bill resumed where it left off, then action on the bill could take much less time than if the procedure was to start from scratch.