By Liza Doubossarskaia, NOW Communications Intern
A bill that will strike a devastating blow to the fundamental principles of human rights might be coming to a vote in an immediate future.
The legislation in question is Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 proposed by parliament member David Bahati. The bill enjoys popular support in the Uganda Parliament, and if passed will become one of the most vitriolic anti-gay laws in the region.
In order to cement the narrow-minded social order, Uganda’s government is willing to further marginalize one of its most vulnerable social groups and hoist even more dehumanizing policies on its gay citizens. Gay people in Uganda are already subject to daily persecution. They face death threats, physical assaults, job dismissals and denouncement by their families and communities. Uganda’s police force has an established practice of arbitrarily arresting people accused of participating in consensual same-sex intercourse. Once detained, gays and lesbians are subject to torture and other mistreatment.
However, the new bill would make the abovementioned violations of human rights look like mild inconveniencies in comparison. Under the proposed legislation, A person who engages in same-sex intercourse or touches someone with the “intention” of such sexual activity is considered to have committed the “offence of homosexuality” and is subject to life imprisonment. An HIV-positive person engaging in same-sex intercourse will be charged with the felony of “aggravated homosexuality” and punished by death. The same penalty applies to persons in sexual relations with people with disabilities or people under the age of 18. An attempt to commit homosexuality will result in seven years imprisonment and an attempt to commit aggravated homosexuality carries a life sentence. Furthermore, efforts to aid and counsel gay persons will land you in prison for seven years. If the “offender” is a corporate body, a business, or a non-governmental organization, its certificate of registration will be revoked and the director will also be send to prison.
If you think the bill can’t get any worse, prepare to be further disillusioned. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill will also require Ugandan citizens to disclose known homosexuals within 24 hours. If a person fails to do so, he or she will be fined and/or sentenced to three years in prison. Even abroad, gay Ugandan citizens will not be safe from the callous persecution of their government. Under the new bill, the “offence” of homosexuality committed outside of Uganda’s boarders will still be punishable by Ugandan law, and the “offender” will be subject to extradition.
This bill will create a big obstacle to Uganda’s highly successful fight against HIV and AIDS. The bill prohibits distribution of any material that promotes homosexuality. The information pertaining to safe-sex practices and condom use for gay men would undoubtedly fall in this category . Daniel Molokele, Africa program officer at the World AIDS Campaign, stated that “discrimination and punitive laws like [the Anti-Homosexuality Bill] aimed at marginalized groups and at those often among the most affected by HIV drives people underground and does nothing to help slow down the AIDS epidemic.”
The bill will also effectively dismantle all domestic and international LGBT organizations in Uganda and deprive gay people of a much needed support network. Furthermore, the provision requiring a disclosure of homosexuals will not only force family and neighbors to turn on each other, but it leaves the door wide open for an all out witch-hunt.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton indicated that United States will not tolerate the new legislature, and there have been some reports of the State Department engaging the Ugandan government on the issue. Thanks to The Rachel Maddow Show and other media for calling attention to this critical issue.