Saturday, September 11, 2010

Uganda May Pass Portions of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill On The Downlow

Jim Burroway
September 8th, 2010

According to Afrik News, outgoing Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo has announced that the Ugandan Cabinet is reviewing an Anti-Pornography Bill, with an eye toward curbing “the vice of homosexuality”:

While addressing the press in Kampala on Wednesday, the Minister of Uganda for Ethics and Integrity, Dr. James Nsaba Buturo said that Pornography is the mother of vice and so there is need to stop it immediately.

“Pornography breeds homosexuality. I am happy that finally a bill to curb pornography in Uganda is out to punish the promoters of the vice. The draft bill is already in cabinet for discussion” Nsaba Buturo said.

According to the bill, any person found guilty of dealing in pornographic materials risks paying heavy fines or a 10-year jail sentence or both.

“The days of the homosexuals are over. The bill is good news to all morally upright Ugandans saying that pornography has contributed to moral decay and increased crimes among Ugandans,” he added.

[Update: Daily Monitor has some more details on the proposed legislation:

A proposed anti-pornography law could see journalists and Internet service providers jailed for terms ranging from five to 10 years and their businesses closed, Ethics Minister James Nsaba Buturo said yesterday.

...Under the proposed Bill, pornography is defined as any form of communication from literature to fashion or photography that depicts unclothed or under-clothed parts of the human body (such as breasts, thighs, buttocks or genitalia), that narrates or depicts sexual intercourse or that describes or exhibits anything that can lead to erotic stimulation.

According to the proposed Bill, pornography includes ‘fashion’, implying that women could be arrested for wearing short skirts and skimpy dresses. Mr Buturo said children should also be protected from pornographic materials.

...Only teaching aides, spouses and sportsmen will get exemptions of punishment from the new law. However, analysts say the flaws of the proposed law, lies in the broad definition of pornography.

Daily Monitor quotes Buturo as saying that the new law would extensively expand the definition of pornographic material and the accompanying sanctions. Depending on what those expanded definitions contain, this could be worrisome for LGBT advocates. it is not unusual for African police and prosecutors to take an extremely expansive view of what constitutes "pornography" where homosexuality is concerned. Even mentioning LGBT people can be viewed as "pornography" in Africa's deeply conservative climate.]

Of particular concern is the possible resurgence of Clause 13 of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that was placed before Parliament last year. That clause, which would prohibit “promotion of homosexuality,” was cited in a Cabinet Reportas having “some merit.” That Cabinet report, compiled in response to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s call for a study following international condemnation over the bill, suggested that portions of the bill could be enacted under other bills, preferably with titles that are not “stigmatizing and appears to be targeting a particular group of people.” The Anti-Pornography bill could be seen as a convenient vehicle for passing a measure similar to Clause 13 without rousing suspicions in the international community.

Clause 13 of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, reads:

13. Promotion of homosexuality.
(1) A person who –

(a) participates in production. procuring, marketing, broadcasting, disseminating, publishing pornographic materials for purposes of promoting homosexuality;

(b) funds or sponsors homosexuality or other related activities;

(c) offers premises and other related fixed or movable assets for purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality;

(d) uses electronic devices which include internet, films, mobile phones for purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality and;

(e) who acts as an accomplice or attempts to promote or in any way abets homosexuality and related practices;

commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of five thousand currency points or imprisonment of a minimum of five years and a maximum of seven years or both fine and imprisonment.

(2) Where the offender is a corporate body or a business or an association or a non-governmental organization, on conviction its certificate of registration shall be cancelled and the director or proprietor or promoter shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for seven years.

If this clause is being recycled for the Anti-Pornography Bill, it could be very worrisome for free speech and advocacy in Uganda. Not only would it criminalize pro-LGBT speech and advocacy, it would also hinder medical workers, since providing advice on safe-sex practices to reduce the chance of becoming infected with HIV, for example, could be seen as “promoting homosexuality.” Since it is unclear what the provisions of the new Anti-Pornography Bill would include, Buturo’s characterizing it as a weapon against the country’s LGBT people warrants serious scrutiny.

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