Ugandan MPs are reported to be considering holding debates on the country’s dreaded Anti-Homosexuality Bill in closed sessions as they fear being targeted for their anti-gay views.
Ugandan First Lady Janet Museveni
Uganda’s The Observer newspaper claims that while the bill is widely backed in parliament, “some lawmakers have toyed with the idea of lobbying Speaker Rebecca Kadaga for a closed-door session when debate on the bill starts”.
“This subject is very sensitive and some of us fear that if it is discussed in public view, we will be persecuted for holding particular views,” said National Youth MP Monica Amoding.
Another MP, who asked to remain anonymous, said that supporting the bill publicly could lead to being blacklisted.
“We have some projects that are funded by donors and at the same time we don’t want to be misunderstood by voters. So, it is better to remain silent to avoid being blacklisted,” he said.
LGBT Ugandans have had to endure years of ongoing uncertainty over the bill, which was first introduced in 2009 but has never been put up for a vote in parliament due to delays and political manoeuvring.
In another report by The Observer, the newspaper revealed that an American delegation from the Robert F. Kennedy Centre for Justice and Human Rights held meetings on the bill with President Museveni, First Lady Janet Museveni, as well as MPs, including the bill’s author, David Bahati.
The delegation, described as a “gay rights lobby,” was in Uganda to urge lawmakers to drop or amend the bill, which has been slammed by mainly Western countries.
According to The Observer, the group left “empty-handed” and “disappointed”.
Bizarrely, it was reported that Janet Museveni told the delegation that the essence of the bill is not to persecute homosexuals, “noting that Ugandans don’t necessarily kill them although adding that they are not admired either”.
A number of MPs at the meetings are said to have been openly defiant towards the US group’s aims, expressing their anger that the West was intent on imposing homosexuality onto Uganda.
While it remains unclear when the bill will be debated in parliament, MP Abdu Katuntu described it as “unstoppable” as “it is very popular in the committee, parliament and the public. So, no one has the capacity to drop it unless its mover wishes so. But Bahati is not ready to do it”.
It is unclear if the version of the bill that is expected to be voted on will include the death penalty clause for repeated ‘offences,’ as originally proposed by Bahati.
Even without this clause, the bill will dramatically further criminalise homosexuality, which is already illegal in Uganda. It will also penalise those who support LGBT people or their rights.