6 August 2014

Uganda: Push to Reintroduce Ugandan Anti-Gay Law

Photo: Uganda Parliament
Uganda parliament seeks to reintroduce Anti-Gay Law (file photo).

A Ugandan anti-gay law thrown out on a technicality could be re-submitted to the country's parliament as early as next week. Several anti-gay legislators want a prompt fresh vote on the measure without lengthy debate.

A Ugandan lawmaker announced on Wednesday that he is spearheading a campaign to reintroduce a recently overturned anti-gay law for a fast-track vote in parliament.

Lawmaker Latif Ssebaggala said he had already collected signatures from 150 members of parliament in support of the bill's reintroduction, and expected to have more than 200 by the end of the day.

He said as the law had already been debated it could be voted on directly. Another parliamentarian, Medard Bitekyerezo, who strongly supported the previous anti-gay legislation, said there would be "a show of hands in parliament so that we know who is a homosexual and who is not."

"I can tell you that it is going to be bloody in parliament," Bitekyerezo said.

Law decried internationally

The invalidated legislation, passed originally in February, was decried internationally for its particularly harsh provisions.

Penalties under the previous Anti-Homosexuality Act set sentences of up to life imprisonment for persons accused of "aggravated homosexuality" - having sex with an HIV-positive individual or someone considered "vulnerable", including people with disabilities.

It also required Ugandans to inform authorities if they knew of someone who was gay.

Lawmakers had called for even more severe punishments, with Ugandan parliamentary deputy David Bahati proposing the death penalty.

The law was widely criticized, and compared to other discriminatory measures such as South Africa's apartheid regime. US Secretary of State John Kerry even described it as being similar to anti-Semitic legislation once exercised in Nazi Germany.

The backlash saw several countries, such as the United States and Sweden, reduce or suspend their

Uganda dependent on funding

Uganda relies on this support for around 20 percent of its annual state budget.

Last Friday, the Ugandan Constitutional Court on a technicality, saying it was passed during a parliamentary session that lacked a quorum. The ruling however did not cover the substance of the law, meaning the same legislation can be re-submitted.

The court's decision to annul the law was denounced by many of the country's religious leaders, who are widely opposed to gay rights. Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni had strongly backed the law, although he has not revealed if he will back it again.

Museveni had called homosexuality demonstrative of the West's "social imperialism" in Africa.

The court's decision last week had helped relieve some of the pressure placed on President Museveni by Western governments over the law's introduction.

Homosexuality is taboo in large parts of Africa, with 37 countries having made it illegal.

Reuters, APF

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