Sunday, February 7, 2010

Anti-Gay Bill in Uganda!

The past weeks have been full of controversial parliamentary bills! In France, there is a proposed partial ban on veils; in Uganda, there is talk about "aggravated homosexuality" - a proposed legislation in the parliament that would impose harsh sanctions - including the death penalty, on homosexual behavior. How constitutional could this be? As you'd expect, unlike the controversial bill that bans veils in France, the proposed anti-gay bill in Uganda has come under fire from the international community and human rights activists.

The anti-gay bill in Uganda was introduced in October 2009, by David Bahati, a Member of Parliament (MP) of the ruling party - National Resistance Movement. The bill calls for the death penalty for those having gay sex with disabled people, under 18's or when the accused is HIV positive. It is worth mentioning that in Uganda, homosexual behavior is currently illegal - sanctioned with up to 14 years in prison. The proposed anti-gay bill would add a new dimension to the illegality of homosexuality in the East African country - in some cases, the death penalty for the accused and sanctions of up to 3 years in prison for those (including family members) who do not report the identity of a lesbian, gay or transgender person, within 24 hours.

The Ugandan parliament is expected to debate the bill in late Febuary or early March and according to BBC's correspondent in Kampala, the bill has a good chance of being passed. As a matter of fact, an Independent MP said the bill has a "99% chance" of being passed. This is the case because the bill would likely have the support of senior members of the ruling party. Keep in mind that the President of Uganda - Yoweri Museveni has made no secret of his anti-gay views.

The leader of the free world - Barack Obama has, no doubt, denounced the proposed anti-gay bill. He said, "we may disagree about gay marriage, but surely we can agree that it's unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are."

The US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affaires and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have unconditionally denounced the proposed bill, because it threatens human rights.

The United Nations (UN), has not been silent - Navanethem Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the bill is discriminatory and would harm Uganda's reputation on the international scene.

In my opinion, Ms. Pillay is absolutely right - in the eyes international human rights law. I therefore totally agree with Ms. Pillay and all those who have kicked against the proposed bill. It is unconstitutional and contrary to the fundamental principle of human rights - "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."

What's your standpoint on this issue? Should people be sentenced to death by virtue of their sexual orientation?

According to gay rights groups, there're over 500,000 gay people in Uganda from a total population of 31 million people. All of them would be executed, if this "odious" anti-gay bill in Uganda is voted by the parliament.

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