MPs in Uganda overwhelmingly passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill last month
Uganda’s Attorney General has told parliament to amend several provisions in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill before President Yoweri Museveni will sign it.
The draconian legislation, which was passed by lawmakers on 21 March, has drawn condemnation from around the world. It has since been awaiting the signature of the president.
In a letter to the Speaker of Parliament seen by MambaOnline, Deputy Attorney General Kafuuzi Jackson Karugaba on Thursday confirmed that his office had advised Museveni to return the bill to parliament “for reconsideration”.
Karugaba made it clear that this did not mean his office is against the bill but only “to ensure that once the bill is assented to, it stands the test of time without being struck down by court as being unconstitutional”.
He went on to address several clauses in the bill that need to be amended. Most significantly, is the provision that the proposed crime of “aggravated homosexuality” carries a mandatory death penalty.
Karugaba said Ugandan case law limits the imposition of the death penalty to very specific and extreme crimes. In addition, a mandatory death sentence would be unconstitutional because it violates “the principle of separation of powers as it does not give the judiciary an opportunity to exercise its discretion to determine an appropriate sentence”.
Karugaba wrote that two other provisions in the bills are also of concern. The first makes it an offence for “a person who keeps” a house, room, set of rooms or place of any kind to allow or facilitate the commission of the offence of homosexuality on the premises.
The second is a provision compelling a person who knows or has “reasonable suspicion” that another person has committed or intends to commit the offence of homosexuality to report the matter to the police.
Karugaba argued that these provisions are too broad and vague as they do not define terms such as “a person who keeps” and “unreasonable suspicion”.
“In conclusion,” he wrote, “the above provisions need to be revisited before the bill is assented to by His Excellency the President to avoid the bill being challenged in court on grounds of unconstitutionality upon coming into force.”
Sending the bill back to lawmakers for revision may delay it becoming law but it appears that if the concerns are addressed, President Museveni will indeed sign the legislation.
The version of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill passed by the Parliament of Uganda last month imposes the following penalties:
- Engaging in a homosexual sexual act: life in prison
- Attempting a homosexual sexual act: 10 years in prison
- Aggravated homosexuality (e.g. serial offender): death penalty
- Children under 18 engaging in a homosexual act: up to 3 years in prison
- Providing accommodation to an LGBTIQ+ person: 10 years in prison
- Taking part in or organising a same-sex marriage: 10 years in prison
- “Promotion” of homosexuality: 20 years in prison
- Not reporting an LGBTIQ+ person: a fine or 6 months in jail