Parliament will not succumb to donor pressure and stands by the recently passed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2023, speaker Anita Among has said. The bill was passed this week on Tuesday and said her institution will not be intimidated.
“Whatever we did, the legislation we did…the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that we passed was basically to assure people that we are a people-centred parliament. We do it for the people, we are not doing it for a few people,” said Among.
She made the statement during the memorial service for former speaker Jacob Oulanyah at parliament on Thursday. Oulanyah succumbed to cancer last year on March 20 in Seattle, US. At the time of his death, Oulanyah was also the Omoro County MP and only served as speaker for nine months and 24 days, having been sworn in on May 24, 2021, at the Kololo Independence Grounds.
In her speech to MPs and staff who converged for prayers, Among recounted that she had received a lot of threats prior to the sitting in which parliament passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and that the repeated calls forced her to switch off her phones.
“I get a lot of threats, we are going to lose out on Aids drugs…aid is going to be cut off, tourism, export…I said, so what? That you are going to be blocked from going to America, do I need to go to America?” Among questioned.
She asked MPs and Ugandans to stick together, remain courageous and not allow any kind of intimidation regarding the approved piece of legislation.
“I was sent here by the people of Bukedea, I am what I am because of my people. I am not here because I want to get a donation. I got a lot of pressure; I was forced to switch off my phones so that I first finish the session. We are a parliament that believes in God, we are going to change this community, this country. We are not going to be intimidated,” Among noted.
Her statement comes amidst calls from the international community for President Yoweri Museveni not to assent to the bill. Under the private member’s bill, parliament approved the death penalty for the offence of aggravated homosexuality. The offence of aggravated homosexuality is where a victim is a child below 14 or above a person 75 years, a person with a disability or suffers a disability as a result of the sexual act, a person with mental illness and others.
The offence also applies where the offender is a parent, guardian or relative of the victim, the victim contracts a terminal illness as a result of the sexual act, the offender is a serial wrongdoer, an offender is a person in authority over the victim, the offence was committed against a person by means of threats, force, fear of bodily harm, duress, undue influence and others.
Those convicted of attempted aggravated homosexuality will face 14 years once convicted, the offence of homosexuality will attract 20 years in prison, attempted homosexuality 10 years, recruiting, displaying and distribution of material for same-sex sexual acts 20 years, allowing the use of premises for homosexuality 10 years and other penalties.
Now in a Wednesday statement issued by Amnesty International’s regional director for East and Southern Africa, Tigere Chagutah appealed to President Museveni not to assent to the bill.
“President Yoweri Museveni must urgently veto this appalling legislation, which was passed following a rushed vote on Tuesday evening. The law amounts to a grave assault on LGBTI people and is contemptuous of the Ugandan Constitution,” reads part of the statement.
According to Tigere, the passed law promotes discrimination and hatred.
“In reality, this deeply repressive legislation will institutionalize discrimination, hatred, and prejudice against LGBTI people, including those who are perceived to be LGBTI and block the legitimate work of civil society, public health professionals, and community leaders,” says Tigere.
In a separate statement by the United States White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, the bill is one of the most extreme laws targeting homosexuality in the world. She warned that this will not only invade universal human rights, and jeopardize progress in the fight against HIV/Aids but will also deter tourism and damage Uganda’s international reputation.
However, the minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Norbert Mao asked Ugandans to reject the so-called moral relativism, saying that this does not exist.
“Sometimes, these so-called donors, the international community and those people threatening us…don’t wish us well and are really kneeling on our oxygen pipes,” said Mao.
He encouraged MPs to be equipped with taking notes about the issue since Uganda’s decision is from a Godly point of view.
“There are some things that are right and there are some things that are wrong. In the cabinet, we are having some discussions and I believe the minister of Information and National Guidance, Chris Baryomunsi should come on board as the leader in communication to prepare talking points to communicate what Uganda stands for because some of you are likely to go into hiding, biting your tongues or start apologizing…yes, it is possible when you are cornered,” Mao told MPs.
The minister questioned whether foreign countries can allow Uganda to introduce cultures in their countries that they do not believe in.
“We love all human beings, Uganda is not homophobic, there is nowhere in Uganda where people are running around killing gay people but some of us have asked, that if we went to those foreign countries and tried to teach them a new way of life, would they allow us to publish a textbook with that?” Mao asked.
Parliament’s approval of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2023 is the second attempt by Uganda to have stand-alone legislation against homosexuality.
In December 2013, parliament passed the first Anti-Homosexuality Bill that was tabled by Ndorwa East MP, David Bahati and assented to by Museveni on February 24, 2014. However, the Constitutional court annulled the law on August 1, 2014, on grounds that it had been passed without the requisite quorum.