The topic of homosexuality has always been a taboo subject amongst various African countries. Unfortunately, many people have a hard time accepting the idea that there are in fact, people in Africa who are indeed attracted the same sex. Given that the topic of homosexuality in African countries rarely gets talked, I therefore, am taking this website project as an opportunity to explore homosexuality in a social/ political context. The second page to this website, Homosexuality on South African Gold Mines explores homosexuality in a social context, whereas, the links, Homosexuality in South Africa and Homosexuality in Uganda explore homosexuality in a political context.
“Can you imagine that the worst place in the world to be gay is having Gay Pride?”
Uganda‘s Anti-Homosexuality Bill (often called the “Kill the Gays bill” in the media) is a legislative proposal that would broaden the criminalisation of same-sex relations in Uganda by dividing homosexual behavior into two categories: “aggravated homosexuality”, in which an offender would receive the death penalty, or “the offence of homosexuality” in which an offender would receive life imprisonment. “Aggravated homosexuality” is defined to include homosexual acts committed by a person who is HIV-positive, is a parent or authority figure, or who administers intoxicating substances, homosexual acts committed on minors or people with disabilities, and repeat offenders.
“The offence of homosexuality” is defined to include same-sex sexual acts, involvement in a same-sex marriage, or an attempt to commit aggravated homosexuality. It further includes provisions for Ugandans who engage in same-sex relations outside of Uganda, asserting that they may be extradited for punishment back to Uganda, and includes penalties for individuals, companies, media organisations, or non-governmental organisations that know of gay people or support LGBT rights.
The private member’s bill was submitted by Member of Parliament David Bahati on 14 October 2009. Same-sex relationships are currently illegal in Uganda—as they are in many sub-Saharan African countries—punishable by incarceration in prison for up to 14 years. The proposed legislation in Uganda has been noted by several news agencies to be inspired by American evangelical Christians. A special motion to introduce the legislation was passed a month after a two-day conference was held in which three American Christians asserted that homosexuality is a direct threat to the cohesion of African families. Several sources have noted endemic homophobia in Uganda has been exacerbated by the bill and the associated discussions about it. American evangelicals have also been accused of taking advantage of social and economic circumstances in Uganda to export the American ‘culture war’ to Africa.
The bill, the government of Uganda, and the evangelicals involved have received significant international media attention as well as criticism and condemnation from many Western governments and those of other countries, some of whom have threatened to cut off financial aid to Uganda. The bill has also received protests from international LGBT, human rights, civil rights, and scientific organisations. In response to the attention, a revision was introduced to reduce the strongest penalties for the greatest offences to life imprisonment.
Intense international reaction to the bill, with many media outlets characterising it as barbaric and abhorrent, caused President Yoweri Museveni to form a commission to investigate the implications of passing it. The bill was held for further discussion for most of 2010. In May 2011, parliament adjourned without voting on the bill; in October 2011 debate was re-opened. Bahati re-introduced the bill in February 2012.
In November 2012, Uganda agreed to pass a new law against homosexuality by the end of 2012 as a “Christmas gift” to its advocates, according to the speaker of parliament. Although the death penalty was originally planned to be included in the bill, a committee of Ugandan MPs dropped the death penalty provision from the Bill in late November 2012.
“Right now, you can’t go to places that are crowded, because the mob can attack us or even burn us. We can’t walk alone. We are ostracized by relatives. But if this bill passes, it will become impossible for me to live here at all. And that part hurts the most.”
Unlike the legalization of same-sex marriages in South Africa, government officials in Uganda on the other hand, have proposed a bill in opposition to homosexuality that suggest that there be more consequences to any Ugandan engaging in homosexual activity. David Bahati, the MP in Ugandan Parliament, is the driving force behind the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Bahati believes that “aggregated homosexuality” should incur harsher punishment (i.e. homosexuals should be punished by death if they are repeat offenders, engage in a homosexual relationship if a partner is under the age of 18, and has a disability, and/or perhaps is HIV-positive.)
THE ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY BILL
The objectives outlined in the Bill are meant to:
(1) Provide for marriage in Uganda as that contracted only between a man and a woman
(2)Prohibit and penalize homosexual behavior and related practices in Uganda as they constitute a threat to the traditional family
(3) Prohibit ratification of any international treaties, conventions, protocols, agreements and declarations which are contrary or inconsistent with the provisions of this Act
(4)Prohibit the licensing of organizations which promote homosexuality.
-Anti-Homosexuality Bill, Uganda, (2009)
Bahati, the Ndorwa West parliament, as well as religious groups in Uganda, all believe that homosexuality is a deterrent away from what they believe are traditional family values. Bahati has a monolithic way of thinking about familial relationships. As aforementioned in their objectives above, Bahati and those akin to this monolithic way of thinking believe that marriage should only be between a male and female.
Here are some notable provisions in the Bill:
7. Aiding and abating homosexuality
A person who aids, able, counsels or procures another to engage in acts of homosexuality commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for seven years
10. Detention with intent to commit homosexuality.
A person who detains another person with the intention to commit acts of homosexuality with him or herself or with any other person commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for seven years
12. Same sex marriage.
A person who purports to contract a marriage with another person of the same sex commits the offence of homosexuality and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for life
14. Failure to disclose the offense.
A person in authority, who being aware of the commission of any offence under this Act, omits to report the offense to the relevant authorities within twenty-four hours of having first had that knowledge, commits an offense and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding two hundred and fifty currency points or imprisonment not exceeding three years
16. Extra- Territorial Jurisdiction.
This Act shall apply to offences committed outside Uganda where- (a) a person who, while being a citizen of or permanently residing in Uganda, commits an act outside Uganda, which act would constitute an offence under this Act had it been committed in Uganda; or (b) the offence was committed partly outside and or partly in Uganda.
(Anti-Homosexuality Bill, Uganda, 2009)
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill features extreme legislation against homosexuals. According to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, anyone who is found guilty of engaging in homosexual activity will be subjected to various forms of punishment. The various forms of punishment stated in the Bill, extends from a fine to a lifetime of imprisonment and under certain circumstances, punishable by death.
The fourteenth provision condemns those who know of any men or women that are gay or lesbian, but do not notify public authorities within 24 hours. Clearly, this provision is way too harsh and excessive. The Ugandan parliament evidently wants to have too much power over their citizens. By implementing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the chances of Uganda prospering as a country are very little. It is essential that Uganda let its people have basic human rights.
Lastly, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is also seeking the right to obtain “extra territorial jurisdiction” over Ugandans. Basically, Ugandan public officials want Ugandans to be prosecuted in Uganda if they participate in homosexual acitivities and advocate for LGBT initiatives outside Uganda. Uganda’s extremist approach to rid homosexuality in their country was met with international criticism.
INTERNATIONAL CRITCISMS OF ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY BILL AND THE UGANDAN GOVERNMENT
The criticisms that many countries and organizations around the world have of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexual Bill, were all centered on the idea that anti-homosexuality denies an individual basic human rights to love whomever they choose. Recently, Senator John Kerry spoke out against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, stating, “I join many voices in the United States, Uganda and around the world in condemning Uganda’s draft legislation imposing new and harsher penalties against homosexuality. Discrimination in any form is wrong, and the United States must say so unequivocally.”
Another criticm that many people have about this matter is in refernce to the lack of initiative the Ugandan government is taking to calm the tension in their country. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Uganda, Sam Kutesa, responded to why the Ugandan Government has not been proactive in interfering with Bahati’s Bill, Kutesa stated, “To that extent, the Government cannot be seen to interfere with his rights as an MP.” Kutesa believes that it would be wrong for the government to intervene because it is Bahati’s right to introduce a bill he deems necessary to the parliament. Kutesa, goes on to say, “It is a fact that if there are any homosexuals in Uganda, they are a minority. The majority of Africans, and indeed Ugandans, abhor this practice. It is, therefore, not correct to allow this minority to provoke the majority by promoting homosexuality.” Kutesa’s statement forces me to believe that the Ugandan government is not taking an objective or pragmatic approach to homosexuality in Uganda. As a result, homosexual Ugandans will be left with limited choices they can make (i.e. suppress their homosexuality, or leave Uganda for good)
Personally, I think the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is clearly irrational, unjust, and bizarre. It is very important for Ugandan Parliament to realize that its people are not monolithic thinkers and/or actors. The want to maintain traditional family values in Uganda does not hold any validity in getting rid of gay and lesbian Ugandans. What may constitute as traditional may not resonate with everyone else. In short, The Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 does not support the multiple protections that was guaranteed by the Constitution of Uganda. Hopefully, with time, Ugandans will see that thier government is working against them as opposed to with them. The lack of rights conveyed through the Anti-Homosexuality Bill shows that this is true.