Breaking: Parliament passes Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2023

Kampala – Ugandan parliament on Tuesday evening passed the Anti-Homosexuality bill, 2023.

The Private Member’s Bill was introduced by Bugiri Municipality Member of Parliament, Asuman Basalirwa on March 9, 2023. It was on Tuesday presented for the second and third reading by MP Basalirwa.

Out of the 539 MPs, 384 legislators were present as the debate started in a fully-charged house during Tuesday afternoon session. At the time of voting 334 MPs were physically present and 55 on zoom making a total of 389 MPs participating. It was supported by 73% of all the legislators.

Robinah Rwakoojo, the chairperson of the legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee (where the bill was earlier this month referred for scrutiny) presented a report which recommended the passing of the bill.

Rwakoojo said that whereas homosexuality already exists in Uganda’s law books under the Penal Code, there is need to redefine the law and place emphasis on emerging matters that are not contained in the Penal Code Act.

“These acts include promotion of homosexuality and the recruitment of children into homosexuality which have been blamed for the rising incidents of homosexuality in Uganda,” Rwakoojo said.

She observed that whereas Uganda is a signatory to international agreements that might be interpreted to recognize sexual minorities, such agreements do not legally create binding obligations on Uganda since the Constitution and Penal Code c.

The provisions embedded in the Bill seek to protect the traditional family by prohibiting any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex and promotion of such acts. The Bill also seeks to address the gaps in other laws in Uganda including the Penal Code Act, Cap 120, as well as supplement provisions of the Constitution by criminalizing same-sex acts.

Initially, the mover of the bill (MP Basalirwa) proposed 10 year imprisonment for aggravated homosexuality but the committee which processed the bill recommended death punishment for offenders who engage in aggravated homosexuality.

During Tuesday’s debate which lasted for about 8 hours, members agreed and recommended that clause 3 of the bill be ammended and that the penalty of offenders convicted under aggravated homosexuality should be death.

The legislators also agreed to a penalty of shs1 billion imposed on a legal entity convicted of promoting homosexuality.

West Budama North East Member of Parliament, Fox Odoi Oywelowo presented a minority report saying that the Bill is misconceived and did not have a comprehensive provision catering for anti-homosexuality.

Odoi said that the Bill was a duplication of provisions that exist in other laws.

“It is therefore, the position of the minority that the provisions of the Bill, if passed into law will infringe on the rights of Ugandans specifically freedom of expression, association and liberty…” Odoi Oywelowo said.

The State Minister for Defence, Jacob Oboth said the Bill was in the right direction and restored hope to Ugandans in protection of the country’s heritage.

“The Penal Code that was put in place in 1923 is almost 100 years old and is obsolete. Is the Penal Code protecting the intentions of our fore fathers who crafted it at the time?” Oboth said.

Jonathan Odur the Erute County South said that the Constitution and Penal Code notwithstanding, other singular laws penalizing money laundering and corruption among others, have been enacted by Parliament displacing the argument of duplication.

The State Minister for Trade, David Bahati said that the Penal Code is insufficient in prohibiting homosexuality given that it does not prohibit promotion and recruitment into homosexuality.

Bahati previously introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2009 which was passed by Parliament in December 2013, assented to by the President in February 2014, and later annulled by the Constitutional Court in August 2014 on grounds of lack of quorum.

Lillian Aber the Kitgum District MP called on legislators to stand firm and deny the infiltration of homosexuality into the local communities.

Speaker Anita Among said that the norms and aspirations of the people of Uganda remain supreme and that the House legislates for the citizens.

“This House will continue to pass laws that recognize, protect and safeguard the sovereignty, morals and cultures of this country,” Among said.

Other penalties in the bill

The Bill proposes a life sentence for an individual convicted of committing the offence of homosexuality, whereas attempt to perform the act would attract a seven-year prison term.

The Bill provides for a three-year imprisonment for a child convicted of the act of homosexuality which is in line with section 94(1) (g) of the Children Act, Cap 120.

It also provides for penalties to prohibit acts that expose children to acts of homosexuality by imposing a 10year prison sentence on a person found to recruit a child for the purpose of engaging the child in the act of homosexuality.

The Bill seeks to penalize an owner, occupier or manager of premises who knowingly allows the premises to be used for acts of homosexuality with a 10 year prison sentence upon conviction.

Where a person contracts a marriage with a person of the same sex, presides over a same sex marriage ceremony or knowingly participates in preparation of such a marriage is liable on conviction, to a 10 year prison sentence.

The Bill will become law once the President assents to it.