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