Friday, November 20, 2009

Homosexuality Bill is extreme- activists



Legal experts and activists have warned government against passing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill currently before parliament arguing that some of the clauses go ‘overboard’.

The experts who held a public dialogue on Wednesday on the bill at Makerere University said that if passed in its current form, the bill would hinder the fight against HIV/AIDS because it criminalises homosexuality.

According to Maj. Rubaramira Ruranga, the Executive Director of the National Guidance and Empowerment Network of people living with HIV/Aids in Uganda, who has lived with the HIV virus for over 20 years, said “15 per cent of the HIV/Aids spread is as a result of gay activities.

Maj. Ruranga said: “The best thing is to educate them (homosexuals) because criminalization causes stigma, discrimination and denied knowledge on HIV/Aids and its treatment.”

According to Clause 14 of the Bill, “A person in authority, who being aware of the commission of any offence under this Act, omits to report the offence to the relevant authorities within 24 hours of having first had that knowledge, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding two hundred and fifty currency points or imprisonment not exceeding three years.”

Maj. Ruranga asked the government to do more “analysis on the clauses before the bill is passed into law to avoid bad consequences especially in the fight against HIV/Aids.”

Dr. Sylvia Tamale, a Law don at Makerere University and human right activist, said that the Bill suggests that parents, counselor, friends, employers, legislators and health practitioners will be liable to imprisonment and appealed to members of parliament to withdraw the Bill.

“Five of the 18 clauses are problematic from the legal point of view and the attempt to outlaw the Promotion of Homosexuality will affect everybody because the clauses introduce censorship and undermine freedom of expression, speech, association and assembly,” Prof Tamale said.

When contacted on phone, Mr. Bruce Kyerere, president Uganda Law Society said that in his personal opinion, the Bill “goes overboard.”
“As Uganda Law Society, we have just received the bill asked a committee to look into it. But as a person, I have issues with the bill. It has gone a bit overboard. That shouldn’t in anyway suggest that I support homosexuals,” Mr. Kyerere said in an interview.

To add on the voices on the need for the law to reflect moral values of society, Mr. Stephen Langa, Executive Director, Family Life Network said that people who engage in homosexuality reduce their life span by 20 to 30 years.

Ndorwa West MP, David Bahati, who tabled the Bill, said that the government was determined to do away with development partners who have threatened to withdraw their aid if the bill is passed.

“We are determined that this bill goes through. We are not in the hate campaign but are in the fight for vulnerable Ugandans. We will never exchange our dignity with money from abroad,” Mr Bahati said on Wednesday.

The legislator said some development partners from the United Kingdom, America and Swedish government have put pressure on the government to withdraw the bill but the country will not compromise with its values.

“As per now, we think all the clauses are necessary in order to combat the evil of homosexuality but we will remain committed to ensure we have a peaceful legislation,” he said.

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