[JURIST] The Parliament of Uganda [official website] on Tuesday reintroduced legislation that would criminalize certain homosexual activities. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] has criticized the bill [press release] as “a grave assault on human rights.” The proposed legislation is a new version of another bill [Reuters report] first introduced in October 2009. The original bill [text, PDF] contained provisions requiring the death penalty for “repeat offenders.” It is not clear whether the new bill has removed some of these provisions, but AI Deputy Africa Programme Director Michelle Kagari urged that the bill is dangerous either way:
The bill introduces draconian provisions on top of Uganda’s existing prohibition on consensual same-sex relations, which already violates international norms. It aims to criminalize the “promotion” of homosexuality, compels HIV testing in some circumstances, and imposes life sentences for entering into a same-sex marriage. It would also be an offence for a person who is aware of any violations of the bill’s wide-ranging provisions not to report them to the authorities within 24 hours…This deplorable bill would not only violate the rights of Ugandans to life, to non-discrimination, to equality before the law, and to privacy, but would sanction hatred, violence and the persecution of a group of people based on whom they love alone.
AI expressed concern that the revived bill may not need committee review before being passed into law, which could expedite its passage. The original bill was set aside last May, after receiving widespread criticism from the international community.
Uganda faces an ongoing struggle with anti-gay sentiment in the country. In November the Ugandan High Court [official website] sentenced a man to 30 years in prison [JURIST report] for beating to death prominent gay rights activist David Kato. In January 2011 the Ugandan High Court issued a permanent injunction [JURIST report] and awarded damages to three plaintiffs who were among 100 people alleged to be homosexuals by the Ugandan tabloid newspaper, The Rolling Stone. In January 2010 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] criticized the original anti-gay legislation [JURIST report], saying that it could harm Uganda’s reputation internationally. In February 2010, US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official website] publicly denounced the proposed legislation [JURIST report]. Uganda currently criminalizes homosexual behavior [BBC report] with up to 14 years in prison.