(Kampala) - The Ugandan parliament's Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee has regrettably recommended passage of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, including retaining the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality," Human Rights Watch said today. The committee's report, as seen by Human Rights Watch, recommends amendments deleting some provisions but adding criminal penalties for "conduct[ing] a marriage ceremony between persons of the same sex."
The committee's report is likely to be presented to parliament on May 13, 2011, as part of a debate before the bill could be up for a vote. Such reports are required under parliamentary procedure. The committee said that it consulted with several key stakeholders in generating its recommendations, including civil society, government agencies, including the Justice Ministry, Uganda Law Reform Commission, prisons, and the Uganda Human Rights Commission. It is not clear how many committee members participated in drafting the report. At consultations attended by Human Rights Watch only three of the committee's 20 members were present."It should be scrapped. The committee's recommendations fall wholly short of making this a bill worth parliament's time," said Graeme Reid, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Program at Human Rights Watch. "Even if these suggestions are taken on board, the bill will remain discriminatory, a profound threat to Uganda's LGBT community and put Uganda at odds with its fundamental human rights obligations."
The committee proposes amendments to the October 2009 draft bill. Despite the suggestion by the bill's author, David Bahati, that the death penalty could be deleted from the legislation, the committee recommends retaining it. The committee proposes rewording the provision to align with the current Penal Code provision on "aggravated defilement," which is punishable by death.
Some recommendations integrate concerns raised by Ugandan and international human rights groups. The committee states that provisions criminalizing "attempted" homosexuality should be removed, rightly stating such allegations would be very difficult to prove, Human Rights Watch said. The committee also recognizes that provisions requiring anyone who knows of homosexual conduct to report to police within 24 hours would create "problems especially to professionals whose ethics include confidentiality in order to be able to carry out their functions like Doctors, Lawyers and Counselors."
The committee also suggests removing the clauses on extra-territorial prosecution of homosexuality and on nullifying Uganda's international human rights obligations to the extent that they contradict the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
The committee recommends the creation of an additional crime, "conduct[ing] a marriage ceremony between persons of the same sex," punishable by three years in prison, which was not in the original draft. It also suggests deleting the crimes of "aiding and abetting homosexuality," and "conspiracy to commit homosexuality," but including a penalty of seven years in prison for "procuring homosexuality by threats." The committee did not comment on the current proposed provision criminalizing the "promotion of homosexuality," which would jeopardize the legitimate work of national and international activists and organizations working to defend and promote human rights in Uganda.