A controversial bill calling for the death penalty for some homosexual acts was re-introduced by Ugandan member of parliament David Bahati.
The bill goes further than current laws which criminalize homosexuality. It includes a death penalty clause and has a wider impact on the community. If turned into law, it would be an offense for anyone who is aware of another person’s homosexuality activities not to report it to authorities within 24 hours.
“The knock-on effect of passing this bill would reach far beyond gay and lesbian people in Uganda,” said Amnesty International’s Michelle Kagari in a press statement.
Amnesty”s criticism is just one of many such statements made just hours after the announcement of the bill.
“We manifestly oppose homophobia in all its forms – wherever it exists – and call on Uganda’s (government) to stand up for human rights,” United States Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said on Twitter.
The reintroduction of the anti-gay bill comes less than six months after it was shelved following widespreas criticism from human rights organizations and western donors.
Timing is everything
The bill comes at a time when public outrage is high following news that new MPs had started receiving their car allowances. An estimated 170 billion shillings ($73 million) will be distributed to the 170 new MPs, according to Ugandan daily The New Vision. Each MP will receive around $44,000. More than a third of ordinary Ugandans live below the poverty rate.
The reintroduction of the bill may be a ploy for the government to divert attention away from the debate surrounding the car allowance or from other issues such as corruption, experts say.
Many supporters of the anti-gay bill condemned the government’s decision to shelve it last year.
Bill could affect foreign aid
Earlier in the week, British Foreign Secretary William Hague reiterated that his government would not deliver aid through ordinary channels if recipient governments do not respect human rights.
Last year, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that the United States would not continue to provide aid to governments which discriminate against homosexuals. Her statement drew strong criticism from several African leaders, as did those of UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon. At a recent African Union summit in Addis Ababa Ban said that African governments should uphold gay rights.
If the anti-gay bill does become law, Uganda may become a test ground for whether western governments are really prepared to turn their threats into action by cutting aid to the country.