Ugandan human rights lawyer says anti-gay bill should be rejected

Busingye Kabumba who teaches International and Regional Human Rights Law at Makerere University, Uganda writes in the newspaper The Observer that the anti-gay law should be rejected for a variety of reasons. But if the law is passed David Bahati, who drafted the law, he should be the first one arrested just for drawing attention to homosexuality in their country.

Kabumba writes:

A lot has already been written about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill introduced in Parliament by David Bahati (hereinafter referred to as the Bahati Bill). However, the importance of this proposed legislation, as well as the larger symbolism behind it, calls for extended commentary. I do not support any part of this Bill, a position that can perhaps best be explained by responding to the various justifications proffered in support of the Bill. First, it is argued that the Bill is aimed at promoting traditional family values. The question becomes: how can it be said that the traditional family is under threat from a handful of persons having sex covertly at night (going by estimates that only 500,000 Ugandans are homosexual)? In any case, if this is the aim, then had we not better tackle such evils as wife battery, sexual exploitation of housemaids, child abuse, unfaithfulness and others, that seem to pose more credible threats to the traditional family institution? Lastly, if this is indeed the intention of the Bill, is this objective not substantially covered by the recent amendment to the Ugandan Constitution which has made it crystal clear that marriage in Uganda is a preserve of heterosexual couples?

Another argument put forward is that the current law is weak in so far as it does not protect boys who are sexually abused. In fact, this is not the case. Section 147 of the Penal Code Act provides specifically for unlawful and indecent assault on boys under the age of eighteen, which carries a sentence of imprisonment for fourteen years.

Moreover, it is noteworthy that the amended Section 129 of the Penal Code Act, providing for aggravated defilement and carrying a sentence of death, is gender neutral and equally protects boys. Where then is the gap that Bahati’s Bill intends to fill?

Then it is further argued that there are piles of money flowing in from abroad and within for the express purpose of promoting homosexuality. The fundamental question here is, how does one distinguish between promotion of homosexuality and legitimate debate?

For instance, there is no doubt that Bahati’s Bill has invited intense public debate on homosexuality and focused national and, indeed, international attention on the issue. Has the Member of Parliament not only promoted homosexuality nationally but also internationally?

Should he then be the first victim of his Bill?

Read the rest here.

The AFP yesterday quoted Mr. Kabumba:

“I think generally there has been a serious failure to appreciate the foreign policy implications of this bill,” said Busingye Kabumba, a law lecturer at Kampala’s Makerere University.

“In Uganda we have a semblance of democracy, not a full democracy. So all sorts of ministers can shout about how foreigners should stay out of Uganda’s business.

“At the end of the day everyone knows it all comes down to one man, the president.”

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