UPDATE: Parliament issued a statement regarding the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which is provided in full at the end of this post.
Helen Kawesa, spokeswoman for Uganda’s Parliament, told me this morning that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was affirmed by the lawmakers in Kampala during today’s session. “Yes, it has been passed,” she said, speaking about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
The bill is not on the agenda posted on Parliament’s website, but Kawesa said it was on the paper she had.
The Parliament passed the Anti-Pornography Bill yesterday. However, according to Kawesa, the bill passed today is the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009. Kawesa indicated that she would send a copy of the revised AHB via email.
The parliament has come close to considering the bill several times since 2009. See this link for my prior coverage of the bill.
Developing, watch for updates.
UPDATE: The BBC is now reporting the same thing. So is Uganda’s Monitor. No comment as yet from the country’s president Yowari Museveni. Museveni had indicated in the past that he did not favor the bill. However, Museveni can only delay the bill; he cannot stop it under Uganda’s constitution.
According to the BBC, the prime minister opposed the action on procedural grounds saying there was not a quorum.
Ugandan civil rights leader Frank Mugisha issued this statement to me this morning:
I am outraged and disappointed that our MPs [members of Parliament] have expressed ignorance and passed the bill; but we shall challenge it in all avenues. It won’t be law.
A protest is planned today in London at the Uganda House.
This report of the Legal and Parliamentary committee contains alterations in the original bill which may be in the bill passed earlier today. The full text of the original bill can be viewed here.
Ugandan minister Martin Ssempa is glowing this morning after the passage of his pet project. Remember when he tweeted his friend Matt Barber that I was the “chief of falsified news?”
UPDATE: Uganda’s New Vision is reporting that the Parliament rejected a call to reduce sentences for homosexual behavior to 14 years, instead making the penalty life in prison. Uganda’s prime minister Amama Mbabazi told the New Vision that “consultations” would be held among executive members of the government. The copy of the bill in the NV article is the original version, and may not represent what was passed earlier today.
I spoke again to Parliament spokeswoman Helen Kawesa who said the position of the speaker is that there was a quorum when the bill was passed. Kawesa also indicated that government was aware of the plans to address the anti-gay bill.
Here is the minority report which was not incorporated by Parliament. Although I have yet to see the bill language, Uganda’s Parliament Watch is reporting that the death penalty was removed with life in prison replacing it.
Parliament has finally passed the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill, criminalizing, outlawing and providing harsh jail terms for same sex relationships in the country.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009, a Private Members’ Bill, was first presented to Parliament by Hon. David Bahati (NRM, Ndorwa West) in October 2009. It was one of the pending bills not considered at the end of the 8th Parliament, but saved and re-introduced for consideration by the 9th Parliament.
The Bill was then referred to the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, which received submissions from among others the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Uganda Law Reform Commission, Uganda Human Rights Commission, Uganda Prisons Service, Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law and the National Association of Social Workers of Uganda.
Hon. Benson Obua Ogwal (UPC, Moroto), was excited as he moved the Bill for its Second Reading.
“Ugandans have been anxiously waiting for this Bill. This day will be good day for all Ugandans,” he said.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009 seeks to establish a comprehensive consolidated legislation to protect the traditional family by prohibiting any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex; and the promotion or recognition of such sexual relations in public institutions and other places through or with the support of any government entity in Uganda or any other non governmental organization inside or outside the country.
The Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs said in its Report, “The Bill aims at strengthening the nation’s capacity to deal with emerging internal and external threats to the traditional heterosexual family.”
The Committee also said that there is need to protect the children and youth of Uganda who are vulnerable to sexual abuse and deviations as a result of cultural changes, uncensored information technologies, parentless child development settings and increasing attempts by homosexuals to raise children in homosexual relationships through adoption and foster care.
The Anti Homosexuality Bill provides a fourteen year jail term for one convicted for the offence of homosexuality; and imprisonment for life for the offence of aggravated homosexuality.
However, two Independent Hon. Sam Otada (Kibanda) and Fox Odoi (West Budama North) differed from their colleagues on the Committee arguing that the Bill is discriminatory and that homosexuality was already prohibited in other existing laws.
“What two consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedroom should not be the business of this Parliament. It is not right to have the state allowed in the bedrooms of people,” they stated in their Minority Report.
The Prime Minister and Leader of Government Business, Rt. Hon. Amama Mbabazi, who also sought to defer the consideration of the Bill, argued that government was involved in negotiations over the proposed legislation.
“I was not aware that this Bill was coming up for debate. There are some issues on which we are still consulting,” he said adding, “This is an important Bill that we need to pass with a quorum in Parliament.”
The Bill, having been passed by Parliament, will be forwarded to the President for his assent before it can become law in Uganda.
Advocacy efforts against the bill should now be directed toward president Yowari Museveni.