Homosexual Bill in Uganda

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Introduction

Homosexuality has become a global controversial issue of the years. The term sexual orientation has been particularly favored to denote a non-chosen condition that cannot be harmful in any direct sense. Critics of homosexuality in which religious, political and conservative groups are represented term it as a detrimental issue in the well being of society, in which it occurs and a threat to the social fabric. Those in favor of homosexuality present arguments on the basis of need to strengthen and protect the millennia of traditional family.

Many countries have presented legislation bills that are meant to present homosexuality as a sexual offence punishable by imprisonment and in some extreme cases, by the death penalty; while others have presented bills in favor of the protection of citizens with a homosexual orientation or preference. It is against this background that this paper seeks to analyze the homosexual bill in Uganda and critically evaluate the basic arguments in the bill. Further, the paper shall in essence outline the extent to which society believes in punishment for homosexuals. It shall evaluate the factors that influence such decisions in society.

Literature Review

The Practice of homosexuality has been illegal in Uganda and is listed in the penal code, but a proposed Homosexual Bill has expands on it. By criminalizing homosexuality, the Uganda penal code already violates the International Human Rights Obligations. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals in Uganda endure harassment which ranges from verbal insults, physical and sexual harassment, arbitrary arrests and torture and public humiliation. On account of one’s sexual orientation, many victims of correctional rape, blackmail and arbitrary detention have denied health care, housing and even education. The introduction of this Homosexual bill has seen reports of death threats against LGBT citizens and police raids and arbitrary arrests on some human rights activists.

Jeffrey Gettleman in an October 15th 2009 The New York Times Issue laid out the details of the Uganda Homosexual Bill as presented by David Bahati, a Member of Parliament for Ndorwa County, West Kabale, in April 2009.  The objective of the bill is the establishment of a comprehensive consolidated legislation that protects traditional family. The bill will execute this mandate by one, prohibiting any form of sexual relations between same sex persons among Ugandan citizens and two, promoting or recognizing such relations in public institutions by the government or non-government organization either inside or outside of Uganda.

Gettleman observes that like in earlier drafts, the bill reiterates a lifetime imprisonment in the event of a conviction of homosexuality. The offence is defined in a new category referred to as “aggravated homosexuality” and presents provisions of a death penalty upon conviction. One partner being HIV positive is another factor apart from homosexuality which as the bill postulates, can lead to aggravated homosexuality.

Further, the bill imposes a complete ban on all LGBT activities which as such could be construed as “promoting homosexuality”. There is also an infringement on free speech, assembly and redress of grievances for LGBT Ugandans. This is an elimination of fundamental human rights (Amnesty International October 15, 2009).. The ban also covers all organizations advocating on behalf of LGBT citizens whose violation could lead to fine or imprisonment for up to seven years.

There are provisions in the bill that require citizens to report any persons they are aware that is engaging in homosexuality. They are required to report to the police within a twenty four hours period. Failure to give such information could lead to up to three year imprisonment or fines.

The bill also extends jurisdiction to gay relationships outside the country by either one or both parties being Ugandan citizens. Upon return to their country, such persons will risk imprisonment and if HIV positive, death penalty. International treaties and obligations which violate “the spirit and provisions enshrined in this Act” are viewed as null and void in the bill.

This bill has some new provisions over the earlier draft. A penalty of seven years imprisonment is provided by the new category referred to as “attempted homosexuality”. A case of “attempted aggravated homosexuality” attracts a life sentence penalty. There are provisions for the compensation of homosexuality victims. Julius Kaggwa, a director of the Support Initiative for People with a Typical Sex Development observes that this law if passed will inevitably result in partners turning against their partners as a safe resort to avoiding these draconian legal penalties. The law also seems attractive in these “victims” seeking compensation.

The bill also imposes a ban on same- sex marriage. A life sentence in prison is the penalty for any Uganda either in his country or abroad who enters into a homosexual marriage. There are also charges of any citizen who aids and abets homosexuality or conspires to engage in homosexuality. Operating a brothel carries a prison sentence of up to seven years. Critics however assert that the definition presented in the bill is too broad as to include any hotel owner.

Provisions of the proposed Homosexual Bill are compared by many critics to the Idi Amin’s rule where he called for the expulsion Asians from Uganda with regard to their colour. Jacqueline Kasha a lesbian human rights activist seems to represent many of human rights activists’ views in Uganda when she asserts that close to about half a million LGBT Ugandans are likely to flee their country for fear of prosecution. She is especially aggravated that the official figure of LGBT Ugandans is unknow.............


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