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Ugandan Parliament Passes Tough Bill That Proposes Death Penalty for Gays

Shortly after the start of Tuesday’s 6-hour long plenary, ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party MP Fox Odoi had led charges against passing the legislation

Members of Parliament are seen during plenary on March 21, 2023 as the House debated the controversial anti-gay bill. PHOTO/HANDOUT

KAMPALA, UGANDA: The Ugandan Parliament Tuesday voted in favour of the modified Anti Homosexuality Bill of 2023 which redefines and criminalizes different aspects of homosexuality and related sexual offense.

During a plenary headed by Speaker Anita Among, a total of 389 legislators were in attended as the house sought just above 176 or a third of the votes to pass the controversial bill.

The new Anti-Homosexuality Bill moved by opposition MP Hon Asuman Basalirwa of the Jeema party, generated uncharacteristic support from both sides of the House as the bill appeared for the second reading today. The MPs however, voted to suspend its rules to have both the second reading and voting to pass conducted on the same day.

Gazetted on March 3rd 2023, the new bill proposes penalties ranging from 3 years to life imprisonment for acts of homosexuality, aggravated homosexuality, attempted homosexuality, aiding and abetting and conspiracy to commit acts of homosexuality and related practices.

During the House session, several amendments to the bill were adopted today, which included an increment of some of the penalties proposed in the original law.

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For instance, the penalties for owners of houses used as brothels for homosexual acts was bumped from 1 year to 10.

The House also amended Clause 2 of the Bill to increase from 7 years to 10 years imprisonment for convictions for attempted homosexuality.

Fines for media houses which are found propagating messages promoting homosexuality acts were also raised from 40,000 currency points to 50,000 or about Shs 500million.

During debate, Hon Jacob Oboth Oboth of West Budama said the new bill would “restore hope in Uganda.”

It is wake up because the Penal Code Act which we have had for the past 100 years is obsolete. We have to appreciate that Law grows with society; what was not then can now be and what is not now will one time be.

Hon David Bahati, the state minister for Industry said he was happy with the new bill, and that the people of Uganda “must be proud of parliament today.”

“If anybody had any doubt about how deep this problem is in our country, the presence of Hon Fox Odoi (bill opponent) is a confirmation. That you can have a member stand on the floor to say that it is okay for a man to marry another man…It is confirmation that it’s a huge problem and we must resolve it.” Bahati said.

Speaking about his own Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2014 which was struck down by the Constitutional Court; Bahati said the law collapsed in part because of intimidation from abroad.

“We were under a lot of pressure that we agreed with the speaker not to put it on the order paper but to call it during the debate; that is why we ended up lacking quorum,” he said.

‘They defeated us in court but they won’t defeat us now. We will defeat you in the house, we shall defeat you in court and we shall defeat you in heaven.”

Hon Musa Ecweru called the MPs and the people of Uganda to stand firm against the backlash that is likely to follow.

“Some people think that because we are poor, we will be held at ransom. Some people who are vulnerable have surrendered the minority report as you have heard belongs to such people who have surrendered”

On his part, Hon Asuman Basalirwa, the mover of the bill said it sought to among others, address gaps in provisions of other laws in Uganda like Penal Code Act which focuses on unnatural acts and doesn’t penalize procurement, promotion, dissemination of pornographic materials

Following the passing of the bill, Hon Basalirwa appealed to President Yoweri Museveni to quickly sign the bill into law so that it doesn’t run into other legal hurdles such as delayed signing.

“I therefore call upon my colleague in Entebbe to take the signing of this bill as a priority; the gesture he exhibited last time should the same he exhibits this time so that we don’t come back here when 60 days have elapsed.”

The bill was however opposed by Hon Fox Odoi, the MP for West Budama who read the minority report of the legal and parliamentary committed. The minority report was cosigned by Paul Kwizera of Kisoro Municipality.

Speaker of the House Anita Among said she was pleased by the House’s handling of the Bill despite threats.

“This House will not shy to restrict any right to the extent of the House that recognizes, protects and safeguards the sovereignty, morals and culture of this country,” Among said after Parliament unanimously adopted the Bill.

“We are alive to the framers of the constitution; we recognize that the constitution contains some rights and the house has strived to recognize those rights. However, the norms and aspirations of the people of Uganda will always remain supreme,” she added.

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The new bill will now await President Museveni to sign and consent on it to become a gazetted law.

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