Lawrence Alado is a JURIST Staff Correspondent in Uganda. He reports from Kampala.
With over 389 MPs sitting in person, Parliament this afternoon passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The votes for the passing of the Bill were more than the required 2/3rds, and though challenged by several human rights activists, the august house has proceeded to exercise its duty enshrined in the Constitution.
Just three days ago, the Attorney General, Mr. Kiryowa Kiwanuka, criticized the Bill for being redundant. The legal adviser of the Government declared that Clause 2 of the Bill has already been provided for, as unnatural offences are specified under the Penal Code Act, Cap 120 and so are several other clauses of the Bill relating to attempts, aiding and abetting the acts penalized under the Bill.
There have also been criticisms that the law infringes on the rights of people, but the Speaker responded to this criticism both during the parliamentary session and also on her Twitter page, saying that the law does not derogate non-derogable rights. She asserted: “We recognize that the Constitution contains non derogable rights and in this process the House has striven to recognize those non derogable rights. However, the norms and aspirations of the people of Uganda will always remain supreme.”
The Right Honorable Speaker also stated that the passing of the Bill was in the interest of the people of Uganda and therefore noted that such will is what entitled the Parliament to “derogate” the rights of sexual minorities. Commenting on the same, she said that, “This House will not be shy to restrict any derogable rights to the extent that the House recognizes, protects and safeguards the reigning will, norms and aspirations of the people of Uganda.”
It is significant to note that the Bill holds the record of being one of the fastest Bills to have been passed by the Parliament of Uganda. The President himself, while addressing the Parliament on 16th March, had called upon scientists to assist to determine whether or not the acts prohibited under the Bill are “…by nature or nurture.”
Also of greater importance is the fact that just a few kilometers away from Kampala, where the Parliament of Uganda sits, strikes have intensified in Kenya over a ruling of the Supreme Court upholding the rights of sexual minorities.
The Ugandan Bill is not yet law and is subject to the scrutiny and signature of the President. However, it can be said without doubt that the Act, once passed, will be subject to interpretation by the country’s Constitutional Court. This is because human rights activists have criticized the Bill for limiting the rights already protected and guaranteed by the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the State.