Substituting life in prison for the death penalty as the punishment for “aggravated homosexuality,” the Ugandan Parliament passed its Anti Homosexuality Bill today, filling “gaps,” it says, in existing law. While a text of the current bill is not available, “aggravated homosexuality,” under the 2009 bill includes being a “serial offender” or being an “offender” with HIV.
The legislation “will have a disastrous impact on the country’s HIV response” a statement from the International HIV/AIDS Alliance posted this morning says. It urges Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who once was seen as a leader of a successful response to HIV, not to sign the bill into law. The statement notes that the bill will not only further marginalize populations in need of services and limit their access to essential public health information, but compromise the ability of physicians and other HIV prevention, care and treatment providers to provide services.
In fact, a 2012 analysis put together by a group of Ugandan physicians, local HIV/AIDS service providers, and international HIV prevention experts found: “While not yet a law, the bill has already had tangible impacts on MSM and other sexual minorities in Uganda.” It found that Uganda’s now faltering HIV response lacked attention to men who have sex with men, a highly impacted population with low access to services, and concluded that the bill would increase “closeting,” discourage testing, and hobble care.
Offenders, under the 2009 bill (which a section under “Defects in existing law” clarifies is defective because “it has no comprehensive provision catering for anti homosexuality”), include a person “who being aware of the commission of any offence under this Act, omits to report the offence to the relevant authorities within twenty-four hours.” Descriptions of “The offence of homosexuality” include: “A person commits the offence of homosexuality if . . . he or she uses any object or sexual contraption to penetrate or stimulate sexual organ of a person of the same sex” (sic) and ” if he or she touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.” The document clarifies: “‘touching’ includes touching — a) with any part of the body; b) with anything else; c) through anything . . .” (sic) The 2009 bill also emphasizes that it “recognizes the fact that same sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic.”
Whether the current bill includes the 2009 bill’s prohibition of the “ratification of any international treaties conventions protocols, agreements and declaration which are contrary or inconsistent with the provisions of this Act,” is unclear, as is the extent to which the government would be willing to let that impact the country’s ability to work with donors to its HIV response.