Ugandan legislators are poised to pass the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill as early as Wednesday afternoon. Here's what you need to know about this bill.
What does the bill do?
The bill increases criminal penalties on homosexual acts and excludes LGBT individuals from society. It has allegedly been subject to recent revision, but no copies of the revised bill have been made publicly available.
Some of the most concerning provisions of the original bill required teachers and parents to report LGBT children or face penalties, banned landlords from providing lodging to LGBT individuals and added the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” (which includes, among other things, being a “serial offender”). The full text of the 2009 bill can be found here.
Does the bill still include the death penalty for homosexuality?
Last week, Ugandan MP (member of parliament) Medard Segona told the BBC that revisions made to the bill had included dropping the death penalty, which Ugandan gay rights activist Frank Mugisha confirmed on his Twitter.
However, there are reasons to be skeptical. As a U.S. State Department spokesperson points out, no revised draft of the bill has been released and so this cannot be confirmed.
The New Civil Rights Movement notes that this is the third time in the past few years that the media has reported that the death penalty provision had been dropped, and comments that "claiming the death penalty has been removed is a regular tactic for Uganda’s politicians."
Will the bill actually pass?
First introduced by Ugandan MP David Bahati in October 2009, the bill’s passage has been repeatedly delayed due to international criticism.
There are conflicting reports over whether the bill is out of committee yet but for the second day in a row it has been at the top of the list for bills to be considered on the agenda of the Ugandan parliament. The BBC reports that the bill will likely pass parliament easily should it come up for a vote. Some have previously reported that the Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni may veto the bill under international pressure but the parliament can still override that veto.
What are people doing to stop this?
Many countries including the U.S. and Britain have lobbied Uganda not to pass the bill, with the latter even threatening to cut aid over it last year. President Obama called the proposed law “extreme and odious.” Organizations within Uganda such SMUG (Sexual Minorities Uganda) and international advocacy organizations such as All Out have been campaigning vigorously against the bill.
What would defeating this bill mean for LGBT rights in Uganda?
Defeating the bill would prevent gay rights from getting even worse in Uganda. Unfortunately, this bill is only an extension of existing anti-gay laws in Uganda, which already ban homosexuality and codify discrimination.
However, if international pressure successfully prevents this bill’s passage, it may set an important precedent for future action. There is much room for improvement on LGBT rights around the world: According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, consensual homosexual acts are criminalized in 78 countries around the world, or 40% of UN members. In five countries (and parts of two others), homosexual acts are punishable with death.