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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Uganda's cabinet debates "kill the gays" bill

The government of Uganda has rejected proposed delays to introduction of a controversial anti-homosexuality bill in its parliament. It looks like this barbaric legislation is not going to be withdrawn despite international outrage (including from Prime Minister Harper). Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin has the disturbing details:

As the bill is currently written, it would

  • Expand the definitions for homosexual acts, making conviction easier. Current law requires evidence of penetration. The new law would expand the definition of homosexual activity to”touch(ing) another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.” Touching itself is defined as “touching—(a) with any part of the body; (b) with anything else; (c) through anything; and in particular includes touching amounting to penetration of any sexual organ. anus or mouth.”
  • Affirm Uganda’s lifetime imprisonment for those convicted of homosexuality.
  • Define a new crime of “aggravated homosexuality” for those who engage in sex with someone under the age of 18, who are HIV-positive, who is a “repeat offender” (so broadly defined as to include anyone who has had a relationship with more than one person, or who had sex with the same person more than once), or who had sex with a disabled person (consensual or not). The penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” is death by hanging.
  • Require anyone arrested on suspicion of homosexuality to undergo HIV testing to determine the individual’s qualification for prosecution of “aggravated homosexuality.”
  • Criminalize “attempted homosexuality” with imprisonment for seven years.
  • Criminalize “promoting” homosexuality with fines and imprisonment for between five and seven years. This overly-broad provision would criminalize all speech and peaceful assembly for those who advocate on behalf of LGBT citizens in Uganda . It would also criminalize any attempt to repeal or modify the law in the future, as those moves could also be seen as “promoting” homosexuality.
  • Criminalize “aiding and abetting homosexuality” with seven years imprisonment. This provision could be used against anyone extending counseling, medical care, or otherwise providing aide gay people.
  • Criminalize the act of obtaining a same-sex marriage abroad with lifetime imprisonment.
  • Add a clause which forces friends or family members to report LGBT persons to police within 24-hours of learning about that individual’s homosexuality or face fines or imprisonment for up to three years.
  • Penalize people who run “brothels” with five to seven years imprisonment for renting to LGBT people. However, it defines a brothel as “a house, room, set of rooms or place of any kind for the purposes of homosexuality” instead of the more normal definition of a place where commercial sex work takes place. Anyone’s bedroom would be a “brothel” under this definition, placing landlords and hotel owners in jeopardy for renting to LGBT people.
  • Add an extra-territorial and extradition provisions, allowing Uganda to prosecute LGBT Ugandans living abroad.
  • Void all international treaties, agreements and human rights obligations which conflict with this bill.

In November, Prime Minister Harper spoke out against this bill at the Commonwealth leaders' summit in Trinidad:
An anti-gay bill in Uganda that proposes the death penalty and long prison sentences for homosexual acts is deplorable, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Sunday.

Harper told reporters he met privately with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni during the Commonwealth leaders' summit to express "Canada's deep concern and strong opposition to the bill."

"We deplore these kinds of measures," said Harper. "We find them inconsistent with any reasonable understanding of human rights."

I'm very proud of the PM's stance on this file. Keep up the pressure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Uganda will be in violation of UNDHR articles 1 through 10 if the bill passes.