Will Uganda’s “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” be voted on soon?

According to Ugandan news media, David Bahati’s “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” is alive and well again.

UGPulse reports that the bill is set to be debated soon by the Uganda Parliament’s Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. This matches a notice published in the government-owned newspaper New Vision, which earlier this month indicated that Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament Edward Kiwanuka Sekandi “has summoned MPs to report to the House [in March]” to discuss measures including “the Parliamentary Pensions Amendments Bill of 2010, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and the Retirements Benefits Authority Bill.”

What’s at stake here? Lest we forget, Human Rights First reminds us that

Uganda is one of 83 countries where homosexuality is criminalized. If the proposed [Anti-Homosexuality] bill were to pass, it would become the eighth country where it is punishable by death.

More details about the Uganda measure are available at www.standforuganda.com.

This is an important time for LGBT rights in Uganda. On March 15, Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo, one of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s most strident supporters, resigned his post after losing a primary election and then illegally participating as an independent candidate in Uganda’s recent national election. A December 2009 U.S. State Department diplomatic cable called Buturo one of the “key players ushering in a new era of intolerance in the region.” Which is an assessment that makes complete sense, given the parting words and final conspiracy theory accusations that Buturo shared with Ugandan media last week:

“At the United Nations there are attempts by some nations to impose homosexuality on the rest of us…We have learned that they want to smuggle in provisions on homosexuality. Homosexuals can forget about human rights. Uganda will not be forced to legalise practices that are illegal, unnatural and abnormal.”

Meanwhile, here in the United States, Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts has introduced a measure that “would have the effect of pressuring countries which persecute people on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or religious belief.” The amendment reads:

“The Committee urges Treasury to advocate that governments receiving assistance from the multilateral development institutions do not engage in gross violations of human rights, for example, the denial of freedom of religion, including the right to choose one’s own religion, and physical persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Frank’s measure, which passed the House Financial Services Committee with near-unanimous support, is in line with a previous proposal from Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, which called for using targeted economic sticks in order to fight human rights abuses in Africa.

The fact that certain members of the Ugandan Parliament are insisting on moving forward Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill is deeply concerning, given the pressure that President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other U.S. officials have put on Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni to reject and help void this measure. Crimes like the January murder of Ugandan LGBT rights activist David Kato underscore the additional danger that gay Ugandans face if the Anti-Homosexuality Bill passes.

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