UPDATE 2: David Bahati has talked to The Guardian, saying
…the confusion over his bill’s content resulted from ignorance about Ugandan parliamentary procedure. He said he had to resubmit the bill in its original form but amendments had been agreed last year and accepted.
These included a decision to drop references to the death penalty, originally mandated for “serial offenders” or people found guilty of a number of other homosexual acts. Bahati said life imprisonment terms contained in the first bill had also been dropped.
“We are reducing the prison sentences to two to seven years. Even the life imprisonment is not there,” he told the Guardian by telephone from Uganda, adding that the bill would take into account what “other people say.”
This contradicts a news report from NTV which maintains the criteria for the death penalty and lifetime imprisonment remain intact.
More tipping-of-the-hat to Warren Throckmorton’s recent reportage.
UPDATED: The Uganda Media Centre has cried uncle, calling David Bahati an irrelevant “back bencher.” A release says the death-penalty provision has been stripped out of the proposed legislation, though we don’t have further proof beyond the release itself so far as we are aware. The release also says, in essence:
(a) look to other countries if you need a distraction
(b) facilitating the legislative process of democracy is not to be confused with democracy itself
and (my favorite)
(c) no one has been charged yet with the criminal offense of homosexuality so what’s the big deal?
h/t to Warren Throckmorton, who succinctly notes, “life in a Ugandan prison is also called for in this bill for any homosexual intimacy.”
February 08, 2012
RESPONSE TO INTERNATIONAL CRITICISM
OF DEBATE ON ANTI-HOMOSEXUAL BILL
Uganda has today been the subject of mass international criticism as a result of the debate on the Anti-Homosexual Bill at parliament. What many of these critics fail to convey is the bill itself was introduced by a back bencher. It does not form part of the government’s legislative programme and it does not enjoy the support of the Prime Minister or the Cabinet. However as Uganda is a constitutional democracy, it is appropriate that if a private members bill is presented to parliament it be debated.
Cultural attitudes in Africa are very different to elsewhere in world, 2/3 of African countries outlaw homosexual activity and 80% of east African countries criminalize it. Whilst on a global level more than 80 countries outlaw homosexual acts. Contrary to reports, the bill before parliament even if it were to pass, would not sanction the death penalty for homosexual behavior in Uganda.
Many international governments and politicians, who have criticized Uganda for debating this private members bill, remain mute in the face of far graver and far more draconian legislation relating to homosexuality in other countries. One might ask for example, if Uganda enjoyed as close a relationship with the US and European countries as Saudi Arabia (which sentences homosexuals to corporate and capital punishment) would we have attracted the same opprobrium as a result of allowing this parliamentary debate.
Unlike many other countries, no one in Uganda has ever been charged with the criminal offence of homosexuality. Moreover the main provisions of this bill were designed to stem the issue of defilement and rape which in the minds of Ugandan’s is a more pressing and urgent matter that needs to be addressed.
As a parliamentary democracy this process of debate will continue. Whilst the government of Uganda does not support this bill, it is required under our constitution to facilitate this debate. The facilitation of this debate should not be confused for the governments support for this bill.
After collecting dust in the prior session of Uganda’s Parliament, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been returned to active consideration by MP David Bahati. In spite of some reporting, it appears the bill has been reintroduced in its original form, which keeps the death penalty intact.
“This is a piece of legislation that is needed in this country to protect the traditional family here in Africa, and also protect the future of our children,” said David Bahati, the lawmaker. “Every single day of my life now I am still pushing that it passes.”
In addition to punishing homosexuals, it also proposes years in prison for anyone who counsels or reaches out to homosexuals, a provision that would ensnare rights groups, they said.
“It aims to criminalize the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality, compels HIV testing in some circumstances, and imposes life sentences for entering into a same-sex marriage,” Amnesty International said in a statement Tuesday. “It would also be an offense for a person who is aware of any violations of the bill’s wide-ranging provisions not to report them to the authorities within 24 hours.”
There was excitement at Parliament Tuesday afternoon after the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009 was re-tabled for consideration….
MPs applauded as Ndorwa West MP David Bahati took to the floor to re-introduce the controversial Bill for reference to the appropriate committee.
After re-tabling the Bill, MPs both on the ruling side and the opposition gave Bahati a standing ovation. “Our Bill, our man,” the legislators chanted.
O-blog-dee managed to speak with Bahati and reports the same rhetoric as the last go-around. A sample:
I asked Bahati about tourism, “are you concerned people will stop visiting Uganda if you pass the Bill?” He said, “no Uganda has been voted the best destination in Africa last year. I am not worried about that.”
He told me that the purpose of the Anti-homosexuality Bill is to “protect our children from promotion of that behavior.” I then asked what about consenting adult in private. He said that is outlawed “because they are doing the wrong thing.”
I asked him to explain how that fell into the reasoning of promotion and he was unable to answer, instead changing back to the same repetitive rhetoric: “We cannot debate the freedom of our country to make laws to protect our children.”
This blogger’s best prediction is that if the thing ever makes it out of committee consideration, it could have its day and be passed forward to President Museveni, who would veto it. That would return it to Members of Parliament, who could override the president.
We urge you therefore to contact your elected officials in Congress, in state government, or even at the White House (remind President Obama that he already has a stated position) and tell them to apply whatever pressure they can bring in order to permanently push the Anti-Homosexuality Bill out of the Ugandan Parliament.