Today, public hearings on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill took place before the Parliamentary and Legal Affairs Committee, according to the bill author, David Bahati. In an interview, Bahati said that the Uganda Law Reform Commission and several religious leaders were on the list of those slated to provide testimony. He added, “I know that the process of legislation is moving forward.”
Bahati declined to say that the bill would be voted on next week, saying that the actual end of Parliament is not until May 18 when the 9th Parliament also begins. According to Charles Tuhaise, a researcher for parliament’s research office, most of the business will be concluded by the end of next week. He told me that the hearings for the Marriage and Divorce Bill have concluded and those for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill began today. In addition to the Law Reform Commission, those providing testimony today included the Attorney General’s Office, Martin Ssempa and Stephen Langa’s Family Life Network. Tuhaise said the antigay bill hearings will probably conclude on Monday with the NGO Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law being one group on the agenda.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 (click here for full text) would make any homosexual contact subject to life in prison, or even death if the participants are HIV positive. Those who know of homosexuals but do not report this information to the police could face fines and jail time. No exceptions are made for clergy or health care professionals.
The fate of the antigay measure has been uncertain since it was introduced on October 14, 2009. From the beginning, the bill had support from the public as well as from religious and political leaders. However, legislative progress on the bill was slowed by massive international opposition. Contrary to false reports that the bill had been shelved, it has remained before a Ugandan parliamentary committee. In December, 2010, committee chair Stephen Tashobya told me that he hoped to move the Anti-Homosexuality Bill through his committee in time for a vote before the end of Parliament. Tashobya also said that the hearings would precede a vote.
Bahati also told me that a resolution he offered to call for common ground between the government and opposition leaders was adopted by Parliament during today’s session. The bipartisan resolution was offered in the wake of protests over inflation and the violent response from the government.
See also: Hearings may be taking place.
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