Monday, November 2, 2009

Another meeting on the Ugandan anti-gay bill

Meeting presided over by: Menhya Simon Gerald, Chairman of Presidential Affairs Committee
Meeting subject: Anti-homosexuality bill
Date: October 28, 2009
Note-taker: Soo-Ryun Kwon

Menhya Simon Gerald: Our distinguished religious leaders, ladies, and gentlemen, today is a special day in the history of this Parliament, that the Committee for Presidential Affairs interfaces with various religious leaders in this country. In the African culture, we introduce ourselves so we know who we are. I want to invite Dr. Kakembo, the Archbishop of 7th Day Adventist Church to lead us in prayer.

Archbishop Dr. John Kakembo: Our father, we’ve gathered to discuss sensitive issues regarding our ministries. Life has become complicated because of sin and we want you to guide us to solutions that will be effective in dealing with homosexuality. Amen.

Introductions of Members of Parliament (MPs)
• Grace Oburu, MP, Vice-Chairperson of Presidential Affairs Committee, NRM
• David Bahati, MP from Kabale. NRM, drafted the bill.
• Godfrey ????, works for Presidential Affairs committee.
• Kaahwa Erisa Ammoti, member of Presidential Affairs Committee, member of NRM.
• Peruperu, member of Presidential Affairs Committee, UPC.
• Kitatawema, MP, NRM
• Kagene, representing people from Daka, member of Presidential Affairs Committee
• Aol Betty Ocan, Gulu, member of Presidential Affairs Committee, FDC
• Benson Obua Ogwal, not member of Presidential Affairs Committee, but interested in this topic. Lira, UPC. Worked with Bahati on the bill.
• Susan Katulu, lawyer with Parliament
• Florence Ochieng, participated in the drafting of the bill

Invited guests
• John Kakembo, Archbishop of 7th Day Adventist Church
• Dr. Joseph Serawga, Leader of Born Again Churches
• Peter Matofu, Reverend Father of Uganda ??? Church, retired professor from Makerere University, now at Nkumba University. Been around since NRM started struggle. Chairperson for Kampala Veterans’ Association. I thank you for remembering your colleagues. I’m also representing the Metropolitan Orthodox Church of Kampala, since he’s not around. My profession warrants me to discuss this. I’m 69 years old.
• Rev. Canon Mwesigye from Church of Uganda
• Pastor Okumu Godfrey from ???. Came to represent ??? who’s out of the country
• Mohammad Ali, representing his eminency the Mufti of Uganda

Menhya: This is a bill that has been offered by Bahati and his colleague Obua. It’s an important bill given the level of sexuality in this country, and we thought as Parliament we need legislation that will help curb this vice. I’d want to request Bahati to take us through the bill in terms of highlighting the objectives of the bill and some salient issues.

Bahati: We want to state that on 29th of April, myself and Benson Obua from UPC moved to intro a private member’s bill entitled Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009. It came to house for first reading 14 October. It came from 2 principles: massive recruitment of young people, especially in schools, into homosexuality behavior. It’s not a human rights, it’s a bad habit, and if we don’t act now, provide for preventative measures, then our country will sooner or later be in trouble. We’ve seen a lot of attacks, especially from international civil society and it’s because not for any reason, but there are issues of accountability for funding and receiving. More about funding. It’s not a human right, we believe, because scientific research has indicated that first, on HIV/AIDS--males involved and females involved in homosexuality are prone to getting HIV/AIDS more than ordinary person, 3 times more prone. Person engaging in homosexuality has reduced life expectancy of 20 years. As males participate in homosexuality, over 6 years, they spoil their organs and in some cases are forced to put on nappies as children. This is behavior that can’t go on. It’s silent and creeping around in our society. We have information that NGOs are being financed to promote this and existing legal framework, The Penal Code Act mentions “unnatural offences,” but given magnitude of problem, we can’t just leave it to “unnatural behavior.” It’s not comprehensive or explicit. Constitution prohibits same-sex marriage. Why aren’t people fighting that in our constitution? They want to engage in homosexuality but don’t want to get married. Why are they adopting children? There’s an evil creeping into our society, and they want to defend the homosexual family. The best output of family is when it’s between man and woman.

Benson: Thank you very much. As I said earlier, I’m fully behind this bill as a co-sponsor and I won’t be deterred by any threats. Bahati has been receiving many threats to his life. I haven’t received any yet but that’s not going to deter us. For obvious reasons. We strongly feel that homosexuality is unnatural, and every faith in this country testifies to this and it’s against all common sense. Anyone trying to defend it has something wrong with them. It’s causing destruction to this country, and we need to stem it. Permit me to say we shouldn’t we be deterred from pressure from wherever. We know there are powerful international NGOs and some from the international community don’t want this to go through. The Commonwealth is trying to make sure that this strange culture is entrenched around the globe. We have a fear that if we move ahead to pass, then the international community will deny Uganda aid. This is some of the tactics being used. We can do without aid as long as Uganda is morally upright. So those kinds of things shouldn’t deter us. Others argue that if passed in present form, it threatens the lives of almost everyone. This is a big lie. This bill targets defenders and anyone who works to promote homosexuality, but it doesn’t endanger human beings or Ugandans in general. I dare say the whole world is watching Uganda As you heard in BBC and newspapers, 2 Kenyan men decided to marry in London and it’s causing a furor in Kenya. And now they’re demanding that right be entrenched in Kenyan constitution. What we’ll do in this bill will help the region determine what we need to do as Africans. Uganda will be leader in fight against homosexuality.

Bahati: So as Benson said, we’re not engaged in a hate campaign. We’re not--We’re engaged in protection of the natural family. Object of bill is to protect the traditional family by prohibiting any sexual relations between people of same sex, and without any govt support of Uganda. Some things in the penal code act (PCA) and constitution are involved. We want to consolidate all these laws into 1 comprehensive law. We want to protect the traditional family. There are defects in PCA. There’s mention of unnatural behavior but it’s hard to define. Given magnitude of the problem, we should make it comprehensive and clear in one piece of legislation. We’re not trying to repeal; we want to strengthen PCA and fulfill const provision against same-sex marriage. To provide that marriage is that that exists only between man and woman, and also penalize homosexuality as a behavior. We’re providing that our nation can’t ratify international conventions that contravene this act. There’s strong group at UN to make UN recognize sexual minorities as minorities with rights. We’re against that. We’re also providing what’s missing in laws—currently, there’s nothing that prohibits NGOs from promoting homosexuality. UNICEF printed a book translated into different languages, distributed in all schools in Uganda, saying homosexuality is normal and encouraging young children to participate in it. We want to prohibit that. There are few objectives, but they’re important. There’s a lot of recruitment. Everyday I receive calls from children in a number of schools telling me this is happening. Bill has close to 5 parts, as members will see, clearly talking about different offences. Also, I don’t think I need to go through interpretation of the bill. In terms of offences, we’re providing that a person who commits an offence of homosexuality faces imprisonment for life. We want to define, because there are a number of definitions. “Gay” means a male who engages or attempts to engage in same gender sexual activity. “Lesbian” means a female who does the same. “Sexual act” we’re going to expand to include physical activity that doesn’t culminate in intercourse but also can include touching of breasts and those organs. So that’s the definition. Why? Because it includes touching and engaging in those things. In terms of offence, we’re saying a person commits an offence if a person penetrates the anus or mouth with his penis or any other contraption. So again here, we expand to include the anus, the mouth, because these are some of the tactics they use to engage in homosexuality. Clause 3 is what has brought a lot of controversy and criticism of this bill. To create an impression that we’re saying all acts of homosexuality are punishable by death. That’s not true. If someone engages with a minor, has HIV/AIDS, or with person with disability, then a person is punished with death. We’re not punishing all acts of homosexuality with death. Clause 4 talks about attempt to commit. Clause 5 looks at protection, payment to victims of homosexuality. There are young children forced into homosexuality, and there should be a provision of compensation. Religious leaders can provide counseling for these victims. Children are being lured into this creeping evil. Not because they enjoy it but because of poverty and they’re being coerced. A victim of that nature should be compensated. Brothels are places where there’s selling of homosexuality. Clause 13 – there are a number of things that can be promotion, including electronics like TV and radio. There’s also nullification of international treaties that promote homosexuality. This bill can go a long way in fighting scourge of homosexuality.

Menhya: We have a series of these meetings. Today we meet religious leaders. November 10th, another, November 11th, another group. We have a lot of consultations. We want views in this bill so that there’s value addition. Church of Uganda, can you submit your views in regard to this bill?

Rev. Canon Mwesigye: We got this letter yesterday and wanted to give it more time. Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC) links Christian fraternity. I asked the Secretary-General of UJCC to put in his input since you want stakeholders’ responses. (UJCC coming on November 10th to Parliament). Church of Uganda has taken an upper hand in fighting homosexuality since 2004. Church wrote paper against homosexuality in 2005, and Uganda in particular, this paper is there. If you want it, the Church of Uganda has this position paper. In June 2008, Church took 105 people to Israel to participate in Global Conference discussing way forward with Homosexuality. We participated and we have another position paper. I’d like to say that this is a timely and important law that is consistent with const, the law of the land, as far as the bill’s provisions are concerned. Article 31(2)(a) of the Constitution is the starting point against homosexuality. We want to enforce that. And the Church of Uganda asks whether people who designed this law – are human rights absolute? People may use the basis of human rights to fight their cause, so are they absolute? On interpretation of the bill, we said that the word authority should include military and cultural. Cultural element in Uganda is pronounced, and so is military. These are huge institutions in our country. Culture means more than social and military means more than political. The word disability – suppose you have only 1 eye? Aren’t you disabled? Then you need to go further. The word victim, there must be provisions for secondary victims, like spouse and children. When a man is involved and he becomes a victim, this victim might affect his dependents, as far as compensation is concerned. Is death a form of punishment? Is it intended to help someone to improve? Or to destroy him? I’d like to point out that the legal system in Uganda is imperfect. I’m not a lawyer, but there’ve been cases of people convicted and murdered and later evidence comes to light that they’re innocent. How to compensate? We therefore propose a different form of punishment than death. The provisions related to death penalty can prevent this bill from being passed. The scope of the law – extra territorial jurisdiction. We need to limit ourselves to Uganda. Why? Because our constitution is clear on protocols, agreements, and ratifications. It’s not cost-effective, not easy to get evidence [outside Uganda]. Let us limit ourselves to Uganda because we know we’re protected by our constitution. We must refer to Bible. Leviticus, Old Testament is a lot like Koran. Leviticus 18:22 and constitution and PCA, and the natural law of justice to guide us. I didn’t emphasize that any instrument or organization that promotes homosexuality must be dealt with accordingly, and we need to – they should be prohibited and dealt with.

Menhya: James Sabutoro, Minister of Ethics is here.

Dr. Kakembo: Before the religious leader comes in, as a non-member of this committee, I request Hon Minister to say one word. We can’t talk about this without hearing his voice.

Menhya: This is a democratic country.

Sabutoro: This is a historic day and one I want to see as determining our credibility as a nation among other nations, so when you’ve accepted invitation from chair, I want to say thank you. So we are part of what is going on now. I want to appreciate Benson and Mahati for championing this bill before us. It’s causing a lot of discomfort around the world, and it’s interesting to see the world paying attention to Uganda. Uganda is providing leadership where it matters most. We won’t give into any pressure, and I want to have that as our guiding spirit. We desire to see legislation that defines what the country stands for and actually provide leadership around the world. This is a matter of fundamental importance and will give Uganda a place of honor among nations around the world that are civilized. We’re determined to not give into any pressure. Our reputation as a nation is to be cherished more than anything else. Nothing will sway our determination to do what is right. Anal sex is not something anyone should grant creditable consideration. We believe it’s a danger to human civilization, and Ugandans are decent people. The committee under Bahati has come up with this legislation; we’re delighted, and I can’t wait to see this become law. Committee, the country is looking to you. We don’t want to see demonstrations on street. Keep pressing, and the sooner it’s on our books, the better. I thank religious leaders for coming. In our religious camps, some have come under influence that anal sex is something we should recommend to our children. We can’t be swayed by those, but I’m happy the leadership of the church is clear-minded about what it believes. I want to lend our entire support.

Menhya: Thank you for those remarks and your determination to stamp out this terrible vice. At this time I want to invite Kakembo to give his remarks.

Kakembo: The 7th Day Adventist Church representatives meet once a year and every five years pass important resolutions. In 1999, we sent representatives from all over the world and came up with a position paper on this issue of homosexuality. I’ll give you a copy. The Church recognizes every human is valuable, and we seek to minister to all men and women and by God’s grace through encouragement of faith, an individual may live in harmony with God’s word. That exists only in marital relationship between man and woman. Scriptures declare that a man will become one flesh with women. 7th Day Adventists don’t recognize homosexual unions. Foreigners running a gymnastic company victimized young boys and I was almost a victim. Thank god I escaped. The actions of these people are predatory, and most victims never say a word but they suffer from childhood until adulthood. I want to take a deeper analysis. In notes, I highlighted some which are of concern: That is the death penalty. Is this deterrence? I didn’t feel comfortable about it, but since he’s mentioned it, I think it should be discussed. I like the clause [on compensation for victims that the ] court may, in addition to the sentence—it should be “shall”—the victims one of the effects on victims is their inability to come out. There’s shame, fear of rejection. Some compensation may not correct the problem, but compensation MUST be given. Victims are not only the children, but also parents. I’ve heard of gang rapes in schools. I’ve heard of 2. If there’s legislation against rapes--and lastly, there’s been a claim by some propagators—why not deal with people who commit adultery in the same way? Yes, it’s against the law of God, but people do [adultery] in secret, but they don’t come out and claim civil rights. They do it secretly, and when they’re found out, they suffer for it.

Mufti’s representative: I want to convey the thanks of the Mufti. We were involved since the MP started this. We were invited to the MP’s office when this matter was tabled, and we’re glad to learn we’re somewhere now by having this draft with us. First of all, we want to note that this draft is left to be misrepresented at times, and it creates a number of anomalies in our communities and societies. The press published drafts. But much of this was misrepresentation, and there was no response from the concerned. I wish that the effort must be consistent because the movement tackled is very consistent and invests quite a lot in seeing that their mission succeeds. We want to deal with issues of penalties and so forth, but we still have time to do that. In Islam, homosexuality is considered sinful. It’s a profound mistake. Humans are not homosexual by nature, as people allege, but become so because of their environments, particularly during puberty. Suggestions, ideas, and strange dreams. They are strongly reinforced. Human instincts can be subjected to acts of will. Humans can entertain their thoughts. Muslims identify and defend any groups who are discriminated against because of our foundational values. Where we abhor acts of discrimination against groups; we also highly value the right of desertion [dissension?] and the rights of individuals to act. There’s a balance between groups and individuals. No one has right to spy into the rights of private individuals, even if they get to be incidentally known. They should be kept private. We’re behind protection of natural family as a durable, proven, and most important nucleus of any society. There’s continued struggle to balance individual rights and societal well-being. We put a higher value on social well-being. Therefore we resist and ensure our values against an onslaught. It should never be aggression, but a firm and principled stand against counter-values. We have indeed a duty to provide wisdom and values that will advance humanity. We as Muslims have divine guidance from Koran, and it reminds us what Allah said—unless we put in effort, there will never be change. 13:11. We have a duty and a responsibility to not only make an effort to arrest this trend, but also to promote divine values with zeal. Homosexuality is a global movement and it has international influences. We must prepare for this. If we don’t act on our part, God will do it. The practice is evil and ought to be stopped immediately.

Professor Peter Matofu: When the archbishop received the invitation, he invited me and said this is your area because we’ve always discussed. In 1963, I was a victim. There was a Ugandan man, working at the U.S. Embassy who befriended me. I was a small man. I didn’t have an idea of befriending a woman. This fellow said, “Let’s go.” I needed money. I was desperate for school fees. He took me to his house in Naguru. He started doing things. Now people came, he came out, took his vehicle. He was a proud man. I didn’t know what he wanted from me until one of his houseboys came and told me that I escaped, that the man was a homosexual. I didn’t know what it meant. Does that mean he’s going to beat me? I didn’t know what it meant. In 1969, I went to America. I was at Princeton University in NJ, and one of my renowned professors wanted us to go and do practicals in psychopathology based on sexual deviation. We were 4 Ugandans, and he told us to first test. Of what? Homosexuality? We said, “We’re Africans; we don’t do homosexuality.” He said to do it or we wouldn’t pass the course. We said we’d ask the university for money for tickets to go back home. We put this case before the University President and he rescued us. When we went to NY, we were 4 Ugandans, and we pretended we knew how they were behaving and dressing. We were forced to wear trousers. We were touching, touching. In 1969, we escaped death because these homosexuals are dangerous people. They’ll see that you’re not, and they know you’re pretending and then they can knife or gun you. These people have their special groups from abroad. I agree with my colleagues. Genesis 2:18-25. Mark 10:8, 1 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 5:1, Matthew 19:5. They concern the use and mis-use of the shelter of God. The bill – on p. 3, they talk of other related matters. I’d like you to enumerate those, such as exhibitionism, when somebody is not interested in a woman, but is interested in looking at the vagina when it is there open, and he feels sexually satisfied; the second is voyeurism, when someone uses an instrument, especially the knickers and shoes of women, and use it like this, stand, smell, and smelling the knicker, any type of knicker, unwashed, the best way is unwashed, or a shoe, any female shoe, this is called voyeurism; another is fetishism, and this is exactly when anything related to what is preferred, and when it’s a man, it’s a homosexual, then they can use that instrument. I don’t know what it is about the feet, but a homosexual will use a male shoe. A lesbian will use a female’s shoes. There is tranvestisism. Be very careful. This kind of transvestisism is both for normal and unnormal people. Normal people—it’s a defence mechanism, a beloved object. Boys were stealing dresses from young girls and he keeps it in his room, he opens it and looks at it, that’s a kind of transvestisism, even photographs, some young men and women have photos, and look at the photos in a special way until they reach a climax. That’s transvestisim. Then we have sado-mashochism. It’s very dangerous, and when I teach my students, I tell them to be very careful when playing sex. The cries of women, this affects children, and children will want people having that kind of cry, between mother and father, and they’ll imitate it. On top of homosexuality, there are others. They need to be included. Let us go now to the text. The text on others I’ve completed. On the same page, where it’s stated, where someone exercises “religious, political,” but you’ve left out academicians. If you brought Professor Ofuga on your committee or Dr. Musisi, he’s also a psychiatrist. If you brought me, I’d contribute as an academic. Page 4, when we discuss homosexuality here, the language is very, very general. We need to use a real language to show that people who are practicing homosexuality are mentally sick. They’re not stylists. They’re mentally sick, and they need real psychotherapeutic approach. We need to re-phrase.

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