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Drama as Ugandan pastors differ on special law against homosexuality

Pastor Solomon Male appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. PHOTO URN

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Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Pentecostal pastors have differed on a proposed Anti-homosexuality law for Uganda.

This came up with Pastors Solomon Male, David Kiganda, and Martin Ssempa appeared before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee that is currently scrutinizing the new Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2023 tabled by Bugiri Municipality MP, Asuman Basalirwa Wednesday.

In his bill, Basalirwa emphasized the need to improve the Penal Code Act, which was enacted by British colonialists to prohibit recruitment, promotion, and funding of same-sex practices because the vice threatens the continuity of the family and the safety of children. This is the second attempt by Uganda to have stand-alone legislation against homosexuality.

On December 20th, 2013, parliament passed the first Anti Homosexuality Bill that was tabled by Ndorwa East MP, David Bahati and assented to by President Yoweri Museveni on February 24th February 2014. However, the Constitutional Court annulled the law on August 1st, 2014, on grounds that it had been passed without the requisite quorum.

While appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, Pastor Solomon Male, the head of Arising for Christ Ministries said that the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2023 is not necessary since the country already has provisions under the Penal Code.

Pastor Male proposed that there is a need for better enforcement of existing laws, also noting that the proposed piece of legislation narrowly describes homosexuality by excluding women whom he said are often victims of sodomy.

He cited clause 129 of the Penal Code Act that penalizes acts of homosexuality and noted an example of a case tried by Justice Jane Frances Abodo, in which she sentenced Paul Nabamba, who sodomized a five-year-old boy in Watuwa to 30 years in jail.

Pastor Male said that Section 129 in the Penal Code Act on aggravated defilement was simply copied and pasted into the proposed Bill and renamed as aggravated homosexuality. Also highlighted by Male is the reduction of penalties from death or life imprisonment, to ten years.

He accused law enforcers of failing to apprehend reported perpetrators of homosexuality. Male proposed that the country focuses on creating awareness against homosexuality and establishing centers to rehabilitate victims.

He also told the committee that the proposed law seeks to infringe on the human rights of a particular group of people.

On the other hand, Pastor Dr. Martin Ssempa said the new legislation was necessary since there is a lacuna in the existing laws regarding regulating the vice of homosexuality in particular.

Ssempa also emphasized the need to establish centers to rehabilitate and re-orient victims of homosexuality, and also called for adequate regulation of media in promoting family values. Bishop David Kiganda, the President of the National Pastors Platform of Uganda (NPPU)  supported the Bill and proposed that punishments for sexual offenders should be a minimum of 10 years.

For aggravated cases of homosexuality on minors, Kiganda suggested that the offender should be tried in the High Court, and if found guilty, they should face imprisonment of 50 years. Bishop Kiganda also told MPs that licenses of schools intentionally promoting homosexuality should be revoked and institution leaders prosecuted.

Also proposed to the Committee was a need to include a provision in the Bill regulating the promotion of homosexual activities online and via broadcast media. Kiganda also sought a clear and specific provision in the law that bans Non- Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that promote, sponsor, harbor, and advocate for homosexuality in the country. Bugweri County MP, Abdu Katuntu said it was important to have a specialized law that can act as a one-stop center to address the issue of homosexuality.

“What this law seems to provide is that when you talk about homosexuality today, you can run to one piece of legislation. You do not have to go to the Penal Code which addresses so many other crimes,” Katuntu argued.

Robinah Rwakoojo, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee Chairperson said that often time evidence is hardly presented to the enforcement agencies because it is destroyed. “When girls get defiled, some parents go and wash the child before getting a doctor to examine the child straight away. A medical examination is vital because that is the core evidence,” she said.

Earlier, the Family Life Network, a Non-Governmental Government asked the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee to provide for tougher punishments for perpetrators of homosexuality acts.

Stephen Langa, the Executive Director Family Life Network told MPs that homosexuality is a moral matter and there is a need to fight and terminate it from its root.

Langa noted that before any civilization collapses, spiritual and moral happens and that the country has to deal with homosexuality that has destroyed earlier civilizations.

In their submission to the committee, Charles Tuhaise, a parent leader under the Family Life Network said that clause 10 (1) (a) of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2023 that penalizes procurement of homosexuality by threats, has a weak penalty.

According to the clause in the Bill, a person who by threatening or intimidation procures or attempts to procure any woman or man to have any unlawful carnal knowledge with any person of the same sex commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for five years.

According to Tuhaise, threats are usually effected using deadly weapons and suggested that a person who threatens or intimidates another into the act should be sentenced to death, the equivalent penalty already provided for robbery in the Penal Code Act.

The Penal Code Act under Clause 286 (2) provides that “where at the time of or immediately before or immediately after the time of the robbery, an offender is in possession of a deadly weapon, or causes death or grievous harm to any person, the offender or any other person jointly concerned in committing the robbery shall, on conviction by the High Court, be liable to suffer death.”

Tuhaise also said that the proposed ten year imprisonment sentence for a person convicted of the offence of aggravated homosexuality, lowers the death penalty already provided for under the Penal Code Act for the offence of aggravated defilement.

Clause 129 of the Penal Code Act reads provides that any person who performs a sexual act with another person who is below the age of 18 years commits a felony called aggravated defilement and is on conviction by the High Court, liable to suffer death.

Langa said that morality is a national security matter and called for the set-up of a station to monitor the state of morality in the country.

The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs is scrutinizing the newly proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2023 tabled by Bugiri Municipality MP, Asuman Basalirwa.

While tabling the Bill, Basalirwa cited a need to improve the Penal Code Act, which was enacted by British colonialists to prohibit recruitment, promotion, and funding of same-sex practices because the vice threatens the continuity of the family and safety of children.

The current proposed law is the second attempt by Uganda to have a stand-alone legislation against homosexuality. The first Anti Homosexuality Bill by Ndorwa East MP David Bahati was passed by the House on 20th December 2013, assented to by President Yoweri Museveni on 24th February, 2014 but later annulled by the Constitutional Court on 1st August, 2014, on grounds that had been passed without the requisite quorum.

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