All Eyes on Uganda

All Eyes on Uganda

Update: Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which has been the subject of international criticism since the draconian legislation’s introduction in 2009, had been removed from the parliamentary agenda for debate on Wednesday. However, an update on the parliament's website now shows the bill is back on Wednesday's schedule.

The Associated Press reported earlier today that the bill, first debated in parliament Friday, was scheduled for a second debate Wednesday but had not been included on the current schedule. The Uganda parliament's update on its website now seems to indicate the contrary.

According to Warren Throckmorton’s blog, a parliamentary spokeswoman had said the bill may be carried over into the next parliamentary session, should it not be passed in the current session.
 

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As activists from gay rights group Get Equal protest in front of the Ugandan embassy Tuesday evening, activists and governments around the world are urging the African country's legislature not to approve a bill that would imprison or execute gay people and their allies.

The proposed legislation has been sent to Stephen Tashobya, chair of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, Pennsylvania-based professor Warren Throckmorton reported Tuesday. The bill is due for a second reading Wednesday, during which it may be officially modified to remove the death penalty for someone engaging in homosexual acts. Helen Kawesa, a spokeswoman for Uganda’s Parliament, told Throckmorton that the members will likely work into the night to vote on bills that have been pushed ahead, including the antigay legislation.

Ugandan gay activist Frank Mugisha told The Advocate Tuesday that even with the adjustments to get rid of the death penalty, the goal should be to get the bill completely withdrawn by Parliament.

"How ever watered down it may be [by] removing the death penalty, they are trying get support from critics for the bill, which we shall not allow," Mugisha said.

David Bahati, the author of the bill, told Throckmorton that the death penalty portion had been removed by a committee on Tuesday, as well as the portion that criminalized anyone who had even "attempted homosexuality." He also said the penalties for sexual intimacy among gays and lesbians had been reduced from a life sentence, but could not comment on the new penalty.

GetEqual's call to action asked for supporters to come to the embassy in Washington, D.C., with signs to "let Uganda know that we stand in solidarity LGBT Ugandans, their families and friends, and we will not sit idly by while Members of Parliament debate whether to imprison or kill them." They are also asking for people to write in to the Ugandan Ambassador to the United States, or call into their office.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the bill after it was proposed in 2009, and Tuesday afternoon, openly gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank stated his disapproval of the bill. Earlier this year, the Financial Services Committee, of which he is the ranking member, give a bipartisan vote to oppose any financial assistance to countries that persecute people on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or religious beliefs, Uganda being a prime example.

"If the bill before the Ugandan parliament becomes law, it must be the policy of the United States government to oppose any aid to Uganda from the World Bank, the African Development Bank, or any other international financial institution of which we are a member," Frank said.

U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said his government opposes the bill, and urges their Ugandan counterparts to reject it. He also said on Twitter that the U.K. embassy is lobbying the Ugandan government to reject the bill, and that a European Union démarche has been launched to lobby against the bill.
 

Additionally, more than 800,000 people have signed a petition urging the Parliament to let the bill die, and another petition urges President Yoweri Museveni to veto the bill if it reaches his desk.
 

Mugisha said that if the law is passed, the next step for LGBT Ugandans would be to challenge it in court.

"It violates the constitution of Uganda, so we shall go to courts of law, and appeal for the law to be repealed," he said.

Tags: World, Get Equal

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