Uganda holds hearings on anti-gay bill

2011-05-10 09:01

Kampala - A Ugandan parliament committee has held a second day of hearings on a controversial anti-gay bill that attracted international condemnation for its harsh penalties.

Lawmakers indicated the bill could be voted on this week.

The bill was first proposed in 2009 but made little progress after a storm of criticism over a death penalty provision in the original bill. A committee meeting last Friday was its first public airing since its proposal 18 months ago.

The bill's author, David Bahati, told The Associated Press last month that the death penalty provision in the bill was "something we have moved away from". The bill is now undergoing debate and negotiations, so a new version would likely be presented before a final vote is held.

One of the bill's backers, an anti-gay pastor named Martin Ssempa, told the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee on Monday that he does not support the death penalty provision. He said instead that gays should face up to seven years in prison.

"The parliament should be given the opportunity to discuss and pass the bill, because homosexuality is killing our society," Ssempa told the committee.

Retired Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo said the bill will not stop homosexuality but would instead turn Uganda into a police state and could increase the spread of HIV/Aids because gay Ugandans would fear seeking treatment.

Highly unpopular

Senyonjo also disputed a common claim by backers of the anti-gay bill, who say school children are being recruited by gays.

"They naturally become so," he said.

Homosexuality is highly unpopular in Uganda, and pastors in this Christian country speak out loudly against the practice. Bahati has said he thinks the bill would become law if voted on by legislators.

Gay activists say anti-gay sentiment in Uganda has increased since the bill's introduction. More gays are being harassed because of media attention and because church leaders have been preaching for the bill's passage.

Bahati's original bill carried harsh provisions. The original bill would mandate a death sentence for active homosexuals living with HIV or in cases of same-sex rape. "Serial offenders" also would face capital punishment. Anyone convicted of a homosexual act would face life imprisonment.

Anyone who "aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage of acts of homosexuality" would face seven years in prison. Landlords who rent rooms or homes to homosexuals also could get seven years.

Some, all or none of those provision could change during parliament's negotiations.

The New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said in a statement last week that it was concerned that the "heinous" piece of legislation could become law.

Public demand

"Governments, world religious and political leaders, and HIV prevention experts have all appealed to Ugandan parliamentarians to put their distaste and fear of LGBT people aside and use their better judgment," said Cary Alan Johnson, the group's executive director. LGBT stands for "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender".

Johnson said the bill was being debated now to divert attention from recent political demonstrations in Uganda that have attracted police crackdowns. Human Rights Watch says security forces killed nine people in the recent marches.

Stephen Tashobya, the head of the parliament committee, said it is time legislators give the bill priority. He said a report on the bill would be ready by Tuesday and could be presented to parliament by the end of the week.

"Due to public demand the committee has decided to deal with bill," Tashobya said. "The bill has generated a lot of interest from members of the public and members of parliament and that is why we spared some time deal with before this parliament ends."

Frank Mugisha, the director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a gay rights group, said that if parliament takes up the bill he believes it will be passed. However, parliament's session ends this week and it is not clear if there is enough time to deal with the legislation this session.

Bahati has said the bill can be dealt with next session if parliament runs out of time.

  • Realist - 2011-05-10 10:02

    Ok, death penalty is excessive, but aside from that, this bill shoudl be enforced...strictly

      mbossenger - 2011-05-10 10:03


      colincub - 2011-05-10 10:06 it's fine to discriminate against popele who just happen to be attracted to the same sex but not fine to discriminate someone if they are not the same colour as you?...what the hell have they done to you realist?

      Philip - 2011-05-10 10:13

      Ha! Talk about an out-dated, draconian, fearful, ignorant opinion!

      WhiteAfrican - 2011-05-10 10:16

      Thats very open minded of you Realist. I'd hide my head in shame after a comment like that.

      Mannie777 - 2011-05-10 10:58

      @Realist: Then polygamy should also be declared unlawful and the prez be sent to jail .... or does your argument only apply to certain people, oh clever one.

      Educated - 2011-05-10 11:40

      It sounds to me like a certain someone is a bit homophobic and still needs to come out of the closet. I won't mention any names, cough realist cough...

      cheyne.purdy - 2011-05-10 12:39

      Oh I'm sorry realist, its a pity your grand parents weren't wiped out in the holocast... Now look at the shmuck we call you that we have to put up with...

      Realist - 2011-05-10 15:17

      Why not?

  • colincub - 2011-05-10 10:06

    Disgusting...i hope all the straight people in Uganda die of a terrible disease

      Mike - 2011-05-10 13:36

      It doesn't say it doesn't aprove gay ppl its the act that it says all OT. The NT says love the sinner not the sin. Big difference.

  • WhiteAfrican - 2011-05-10 10:07

    The world has gone crazy and the symptoms are de-evolving. If you don't like it don't look at it dammit. Live and let live WTF is wrong with people and their petty insecurities.

      stephen scott - 2011-05-10 10:21

      Christians and Muslims, have books telling them to murder homo's that whats wrong with them, mentally abused as children.

      Educated - 2011-05-10 12:02

      Absolutely correct. Religion has always specifically targetted children for their indoctrination process as children are always the easiest to brainwash. It's down right child abuse at the end of the day. No child is born religious, it's people that poison them by putting the fear of god into them.

  • george - 2011-05-10 10:12

    but why is it that polygamy is a punishable offence in the west ( Europe and USA) yet homosexuality is glorified? why can't the west respect both polygamy and homosexuality if practised by consenting adults? Ancient Greeks and Romans glorified homosexuality and anal sex between men. Are such European cultural practices superior to polygamy. i dont understand the rationale of allowing homosexuality yet condemn polygamy by western societies. both homosexuality and polygamy should be treated equally as in our constitution. If Uganda want to ban homosexuality, European human rights organisations should not interfere before they allow polygamy within their midst. Hypocrites. human rights should be for all not for a few.

      Educated - 2011-05-10 11:58

      I think it's mainly because homosexuality is pretty harmless and doesn't neccessarily affect anyone surrounded by it but polygamy is a different story. Not only is polygamy a totally draconian practise, it also undermines womans rights and the very premise of it is largely about a males ego and insecurity. How can someone profess to treat all woman with respect and at the same time practise polygamy? It also doesn't set a very good example for all the males or females that live in a country where polygamy is legal. Personally I believe that in countries where rape is a big problem, one needs to examine the laws on how they view their women, and with the fine example that jz has set from day 1, both with his rape trial and with his polygamous beliefs, it's no wonder we have the biggest problem with rape world wide.

  • WhiteAfrican - 2011-05-10 10:27

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, religion is poison!

      Mike - 2011-05-10 11:07

      no its a sin not poison

      B Man - 2011-05-10 11:08

      White African it so sad that you will never see the Kingdom of God. Unfortunately the Bible doesn't approve of gay people but the Bible also says love thy neighbour so I would never discriminate against them. Jesus loves all

      WhiteAfrican - 2011-05-10 11:31

      @B Man Its sad that you'll forever be trapped in a fantasy world and that you'll waste so much time on something that's outdated, inconsistent, damning, and totally pointless. B Man, you only live once, have a full life! Don't waste the little time you have on something as senseless as religion. You do not need religion to be a good person. In fact I believe that many people are bad because of religion. I feel pity for you because like you I too was brainwashed as a child, but fortunately for me I had all of the resources available to me and I did my own research. I recommend you do the same and untrap your mind! Liberate yourself and be free. Go read the bible... objectively. Forget about NOT questioning. Question EVERYTHING all the time.

      Educated - 2011-05-10 11:38

      I would have to agree with WhiteAfrican. As Carl Jung once said, "The gods have become diseases", and couldn't agree any more with that statement. I wonder if the fact that the average IQ of 70 for Sub-Saharan African countries isn't the main cuplrit behind their excessive religious views as well as their draconian laws. It makes perfect sense to me.

      Mannie777 - 2011-05-10 12:05

      @ B Man: "the Bible doesn't approve of gay people" - please quote these words from the Bible for me, no you cannot. Instead you will quote me some lame verse which has been amended from one Bible translation to another to suite straight people.

      Mike - 2011-05-12 08:19

      @B Man: Your bible was used to defend apartheid and "prove" other races to be inferior. With the dissolving of apartheid, certain sectors of society have no one to legally hate. As society thrives on power, there always has to be someone to hate. If society is no longer allowed to hate based on race, what next? Homosexuality. Pink IS the new black - and as in the past, where the bible was used to uphold wrong belief, so it will continue for ever and a day.

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