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Anti-homosexuality law case: Mover explains why judges might rule in fear

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Constitutional court justices will be scared by the Western powers into ruling against the Anti-homosexuality law, says MP Asuman Basalirwa (Bugiri Municipality) who moved the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023. President Yoweri Museveni signed the law on May 26 and MP Basalirwa spoke to Dicta Asiimwe for The Independent about implications of the new law.

Is homosexuality the biggest problem for Uganda? Why are we willing to risk the lives of over a million Ugandans losing their donor funded treatment over this law?

The Anti-homosexuality Bill should not be a big deal. It is you people who are making it a big deal. Alongside the Anti-homosexuality Act, the President signed five other Bills and no one is talking about the Market Act, the Uganda Human Organ Donation and Transplant Bill, the Microfinance Deposit Taking Institutions Amendment Act, the Museums and Monument Acts and the law reform act, yet these laws will curtail some rights too. Why then are you just talking about the Anti-homosexuality Bill?

None of the laws you just talked about could lead Uganda to lose funding for HIV prevention efforts.

As a legislator, my role does not include worrying about the treatment and prevention of HIV/Aids. That is the executive’s role and they should have even raised it during the debate on the Anti-homosexuality law, if there were any indications that aid to Uganda is conditional and as a legislator, I have my own targets to deliver.

Do we have projections on how many people this law will save from homosexuality?

As a legislator I don’t have to have the numbers. For example I introduced a Bill on legal aid. I don’t know how many people need lawyers, but I assume the need exists.

There are people who have predicted that the constitutional court will strike down the law to provide a way out for both President Museveni and his allies in the West. Does this worry you?

My biggest fear is that the courts will be scared by the Western powers. Although for me, I have told them that the guidance they give is what I will improve upon to bring another law. The judges will be like if the Speaker’s visa can be revoked-number three in the country, what about me? They are likely to worry and rule with that fear.

There are those who have said that the anti-homosexuality law is intended to build capital for you the politicians and evangelicals in the United States of America provide money for this contestation.

Tell them to give me some money. I was telling BBC; because they asked me about Christian evangelists and I said I am not aware of them, but that could be because I am Muslim. I also told them that the pro-gay groups are funding people here too. I told them how they (pro-gay groups) tried to penetrate the Legal Affairs Committee and I got the evidence and gave it to the Speaker. If there is competition between the pro and against, then you don’t make an accusation which is one sided. For me, I have not received any money. For example, you know that petition I am going to make an application to join.

Which petition?

The constitutional petition, I want to join, because I suspect even the Attorney General can be compromised and they put up a weak defense.

Whose money are using for the defense?

My law firm. I will use my law firm, and I do not need anything. What I only need is my computer and my brain.

When the Bill you tabled was first passed by Parliament, the Uganda Aids Commission said no institution in government was consulted.

And there is no law that requires them to be consulted. You see the issue of consultation was settled in the Mabirizi case, during togikwatako. The court said the manner, method, numbers, mode of consultation could be adopted by any MP in any style they see fit. There is no standard.

Aren’t you worried that without the support of government agencies, implementation of the Anti-homosexuality law might never happen?

My role as an MP is not to worry whether the law is implemented or not. It is like saying; what if you pass this law, court will nullify it. So what? There are three arms of government. If I fear that court will nullify a law, then Parliament will never legislate. If you fear that the executive will not implement, then Parliament will never legislate. Let us have the law in place first then demand for implementation.

The office of the Director for Public Prosecution has said victimless crimes like homosexuality among consenting adults are hard to prosecute.

If I am naked in public, can I go to court and say I have a right to walk naked. I am not hurting anybody by walking naked in public. But the good thing is that the matter is now before court. We will go to court and make the arguments and court will provide the last guidance. If court decides we were wrong in enacting this legislation; that is the guidance we shall take.

I think it is important to note the arguments that it is hard to implement a law with no victims.

That is not an issue. You know there are two categories. You have children and vulnerable people. The first victim can be a child. They second victim can be a person on whom a parent, a guardian or relative has committed the offence on. The third victim can be an employee. The fourth victim can be a person with a disability, the fifth can be a person with mental illness, and the other one can be a person of advanced age.

In all these cases, it feels like whether homo or heterosexual, the ones you listed would have been described as rape, without you introducing a law that curtails people’s freedoms as guaranteed in the constitution.

First of all, Article 21, doesn’t include sexual orientation as a right. The constitutional court already ruled in the case Justice Madrama brought to court over the disparity of ages for when judges and Supreme Court judges are supposed to retire. The constitutional court ruled that by not naming age, as a basis for discrimination, the part of the constitution was closed.

Controversy around that Bill is that consenting adults having sex in whatever form should not be the business of government regulation because there is no victim.

You see, ideally it should not but this law has a constitutional foundation. This constitution has outlawed same sex marriages. The moment you outlaw same sex marriages by implication you are also outlawing same sex relations. On the consenting adults argument, can you have sex with you mother? The mother and son can be adults doing whatever they want in a private place. Would that be acceptable?

Now that we have a new issue resulting from the law you introduced. Shouldn’t Parliament try to find a solution?

I haven’t heard from government that they don’t have contingency measures for the deficit. If they say so, then we can discuss, but one thing we have is to cut down on our expenditure. At the moment every Cabinet Minister has a convoy. Then there is the wastage we highlighted as the opposition in our minority report, all this can be saved and used in our fight against HIV. The other alternative is to engage donors in the Arab world.

Let me tell you, the Arab world is one of the biggest contributors to the United Nations and its agencies. Anyway, I want to tell you that if government went for serious engagement of countries like Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, United Arab Emirates. These are people with money and unconditional money. So let them go there instead of depending on the Americans whose philanthropy is not done in good faith.

You say Uganda should be frugal and that is the way to replace what the donors might cut from the HIV/Aids treatment and prevention effort. Why then are you worried about things like visas? Should that be an issue for leaders who say the rest of us should fight and make sure we get the HIV/Aids drugs we need? Or is it because most of you travel to America, Canada, and Europe for treatment and to take your children to their schools?

Not me. Since I joined, the last Parliament, I have never been to the Americas. I was in London once, on invitation by Westminster, that was in 2018 and that is it. Each time I have fallen sick, I go to either India or Turkey, but the rest of my businesses are either in Dubai, Qatar or here.

That is why I think when they looked for visas to cancel, mine was not there, because I don’t have any. My passport does not have any visa for any European country. Although I want to provoke them and apply. When I meet them, I want to tell them by the way I am coming to apply. I know they can give me and arrange that side to humiliate me, like they did to President Museveni, last time. What is important for me is to discuss with these donors their double stands when it comes to human rights. I was invited to meet the donors and when that opportunity came to me, I prayed to God because as a former political prisoner I want to face these people.

Elaborate on the former political prisoner.

We have suffered here. We have suffered. Museveni has kept us in jail with no offences. I was in Luzira. I am waiting for them so that we understand each other on this subject of human rights. And I want to ask them one thing. A regime that doesn’t protect majority rights, why would you think it can protect minority rights?

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