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.

Bahati says there is still a chance for Uganda's antigay bill

On Saturday, David Bahati called up his new best friend Melanie Nathan and told her that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would be heard before the end of the 8th Parliament in May.

Today I immediately mentioned the confusion surrounding the status of the AHB in this eighth parliament.  I asked Mr. Bahati if it was true that the Bill has been scrapped and he asserted – “absolutely not” and that it is a matter still in the hands of the Parliament and that it can be passed at anytime.
The best update preceding this call can be found on the site of Warren Throckmorton, posted the following series of updates on his Blog Post: In Sum: On March 24, 2011 Throckmorton notes: “This afternoon I have heard from two sources in Uganda that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (AHB) has been shelved…” Then on March 25th NTV Uganda provided a report noting that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill had yet to be decided, it was not shelved but that the Museveni administration spokesperson indicated that the criminalization of homosexuality in Uganda is sufficiently covered by other legislation.
David Bahati, as prime defender of the AHB spoke in the report that appeared on Throckmorton’s site , clearly noting his dissatisfaction with the idea that the law should remain as is for lack of clarity on certain issues that he believes ought to be specifically dealt with.
Today Mr. Bahati informed me categorically that the AHB has not been shelved and that he still hopes it will be “decided” by the 8th Parliament.  He informed me that the 8th Parliament will continue until the President is sworn in again in MAY 2011 to herald the new 9th Parliament, and that the AHB can be decided upon anytime up until then. He insisted it is still being considered by Committee.

I made several calls to Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee Stephen Tashobya, including one this morning. However, he did not answer, nor has he replied to emails. I know he was traveling some last week out of the country, so that may be some of the absence. However, I also wonder if the matter has been buttoned up by the Museveni administration. If so, Bahati may be placing himself at some risk by continuing to promote his bill.
My guess is that the bill is not going to get out of committee. We have yet to see the Marriage and Divorce Bill which is slated to take place before anything else from that committee. It seems highly unlikely that the AHB would be considered before the Marriage and Divorce Bill, given the promises made by the Speaker of the Parliament and Hon. Tashobya – the committee chair.

Uganda committee chair: Fate of Anti-Homosexuality Bill still uncertain

This morning, Stephen Tashobya, the chair of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee of the Ugandan Parliament told me that the prospects for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill are still not certain. He denied saying that public hearings were planned, adding “what we said was we have that bill [the Anti-Homosexuality Bill] together with many other bills before the committee.”

Tashobya added, “When I was asked about that bill, I said yes, it is among the many bills that we have and we shall sit down as a committee and look at all the bills and set out a program. I cannot rule it [the Anti-Homosexuality Bill] but I cannot say at this stage.”

Last night, I posted a link to a UG Pulse article which quoted Tashobya as saying that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would be one of the bills debated and possibly passed by this short session of Parliament which reconvenes March 22 and ends on May 12. However, this morning Tashobya confirmed his statements to me on March 3 and March 10 that he was not sure that there would be time enough for the anti-gay measure, saying “We won’t finish all the business before the committee by the end of the session.” However, about debate on the anti-gay bill, he said, “I cannot rule it out at this point.”

Tashobya cautioned that his views were conditioned by the need to take into account the views of his entire committee. He did confirm another UG Pulse report about a bill to address the rights of women. He told me that his view as committee chair was that the Domestic Relations Bill was “long overdue” should be considered before the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

The author of the AHB, David Bahati welcomed the possibility that the AHB would make it to the floor of Parliament. In a statement to me this morning, Bahati wrote:

The urgency to have a measure to protect our children and traditional family and defend the decency of our society from the gathering evil of homosexuality is now. I believe parliament will come up with a law that puts Uganda’s interest first, namely, to prohibit same sex marriage, to stop the recruitment of our children, to stop the promotion of homosexuality and to establish a mechanism for rehabilitation, care and counselling.

In a way, public hearings have been taking place since October, 2009. However, it appears that now a narrow window is still open for stakeholders and other interested people to make their views known.

UPDATE: The Red Pepper demonstrates how much haste Bahati is in to get his bill passed.

NTV has this report in which we finally see Stephen Tashobya. I don’t know what to make of what seems like a contradiction between his statements on camera and his statements to me. This footage was edited and may not have included his full thoughts on the matter. If they can be reconciled, I would say that he plans debate if and when the committee takes up the anti-gay bill, but would not guarantee to me that the bill would get that far. Whatever the reality, these statements from Bahati and Tashobya should alert opponents that the window to have an impact is narrow.

Other posts on AHB timetable:

Uganda: Committee Chair describes Anti-Homosexuality Bill timetable – December 17, 2010

Reporters say anti-gay bill has been shelved – Ugandan politicians disagree – Jan 10, 2011

Committee chair says Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill may not be considered – March 3, 2011

Uganda’s Parliament back in session March 22. Will Anti-gay bill be debated? – March 10, 2011

UG Pulse: Anti-Homosexuality Bill to be debated when Parliament reconvenes

UPDATE: Please read this update in addition to this post.


According to the UG Pulse, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee chair Stephen Tashobya told media today that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill will be the subject of public hearings and debated this session.

This is consistent with most of what Tashobya has told me previously. Only one occasion has Tashobya told me that there might not be time to consider the AHB. Here is the UG Pulse’s report:

The controversial Anti Homosexuality bill is one of several bills that Members of Parliament on the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee are set to debate when the House resumes business next week.

The bill, which has caused uproar from human rights activists and donors since it was tabled in Parliament in 2009, seeks to criminalize the act, with one of the controversial clauses calling for death penalty for those who are found guilty of aggravated homosexuality.

Speaking to the media at Parliament today, the committee chairman, Stephen Tashobya said though the bill has created both local and international concern, it is up to Parliament to pass the bill.

Tashobya says the committee will hold public hearings where stakeholders’ views will be heard and a report made to the House for debate and possible passing before Parliament closes the 8th Parliament.

Ndorwa West MP and mover of the bill, David Bahati welcomed the development and said he would continue to lobby Ugandans to support the bill, whose intention is to protect the Ugandan traditional family and children.

Previous posts citing Tashobya:

Uganda: Committee Chair describes Anti-Homosexuality Bill timetable – December 17, 2010

Reporters say anti-gay bill has been shelved – Ugandan politicians disagree – Jan 10, 2011

Committee chair says Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill may not be considered – March 3, 2011

Uganda’s Parliament back in session March 22. Will Anti-gay bill be debated? – March 10, 2011

Committee chair says Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill may not be considered

Stephen Tashobya, the Chair of the Parliamentary and Legal Affairs Committee in Uganda’s Parliament told me yesterday that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill may not be considered during this sesssion of Parliament.

By phone, Tashobya told me that the committee still has many important bills to get through and when asked about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, said, “I am not sure if we will get to that one now.”

He did not know when Parliament would be called back to session but felt it would be next week at the earliest. He said he would know more at that time but was now uncertain that there would be time to move the Anti-Homosexuality Bill given the number of other bills to be considered.

This disclosure stands in contrast to Hon. Tashobya’s earlier prediction that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would be considered very soon after the elections.

For additional posts on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, click the link.

Note: For the record, Tashobya, nor I, said the bill has been shelved, if by shelved one means it is no longer possible to bring it up before the end of Parliament’s current session in May. While his statements indeed represent a positive development, it is premature to make a final conclusion based on a couple of sentences from the committee chair. I will have a follow up with Tashobya in a couple of weeks. Then, I think we will know more certainly where things are.