Uganda’s reviled Anti-Homosexuality Bill could be passed this week after it was placed on the parliamentary agenda on Wednesday.
It was confirmed that the bill is now scheduled to be debated in the country’s parliament following Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga’s promise to pass the bill before Christmas.
It is not known exactly when it will come before MPs but it could be within days. The current parliamentary session is set to close on the 15th of December.
Despite promises by legislators to remove its horrific death penalty clause, LGBT activists in Uganda say it retains the clause that could see repeat “offenders” of homosexuality executed.
“This bill is a total abuse of human rights. It will mean we may face the death penalty for just being ourselves,” Frank Mugisha, leader of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), told the Kaleidoscope Trust.
“But should the bill pass it does not mean our fight is over, we will continue to fight, and we will challenge the bill in the constitutional court. I ask all those of good conscience, both in Uganda and beyond, to join our fight and help us”.
Kaleidoscope’s Deputy Executive Director, Harjeet Johal, who is in Uganda to witness the proceedings, commented: “It is clear to me that people here expect this pernicious piece of legislation to be passed.
“The fear on the faces of the brave men and women who have stood up publicly against this threat to their rights and freedoms is painful to behold. I feel like a shackled spectator to an awful tragedy. But while we can condemn this evil bill from the safety of our own countries, the LGBTI community here cannot escape its consequences,” he said.
Activists believe that politicians are using the bill to stir up homophobic outrage to distract Ugandans – and the world – from pressing concerns such as corruption and diminishing media freedom.
In an e-mail to fellow activists around the world, Geoffrey Ogwaro, from the Ugandan Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, urged the international community to urgently speak out against the bill.
“It is now with profound sadness that… we urge you all now to go all out to condemn this move in any way you see as fitting…” he wrote. “Thank you and hoping with all our hearts that this action by parliament does not come to pass,” Ogwaro added.
An All Out petition has also been launched, calling on Uganda’s President Museveni to veto the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
While the bill is being fast-tracked in parliament, David Cecil, the British theatre producer charged with staging a gay play without permission is expected to appear in court in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, on Thursday.
Cecil faces up to two years in jail if convicted. The play, The River and the Mountain, was performed in two theatres in Kampala, earlier this year.