Cablegate: Uganda: Parliament Considers Criminalizing Homosexuality

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B. 08 KAMPALA 1087

1. (SBU) Summary: A Member of Parliament belonging to the ruling
National Resistance Movement (NRM) submitted draft legislation
criminalizing homosexuality on October 14, with very extreme
penalties for offenders. A local gay and lesbian NGO told Poloff
that the legislation, even in draft form, is already resulting in
increased stigmatization and that if passed, homosexuals will seek
asylum overseas. While the Ugandan government has yet to either
endorse or reject the legislation, Ethics Minister Nsaba Buturo is
openly campaigning for its passage. On October 24 President
Museveni told Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson that Uganda is not
interested in a "war with homosexuals" and that the legislation goes
"too far". End Summary.

Uganda Debates Criminalizing Homosexuality

2. (U) NRM MP David Bahati's "anti-homosexuality" bill mandates
death for "aggravated homosexuality" - which is defined as sexual
assault, rape or incest of a homosexual nature - life imprisonment
for consensual homosexual sex, and seven years' imprisonment for
aiding, abetting, or procuring homosexuality. The draft legislation
states that individuals can be convicted of aiding, abetting, or
procuring homosexuality on the evidence of just one witness.

3. (U) The bill carries a penalty of five to seven years
imprisonment for the "promotion of homosexuality", and a fine or
three years imprisonment for failing to report violations of the
statue to authorities within 24 hrs. The provisions of the bill
also apply to homosexual acts committed by Ugandan nationals outside
of Uganda, void pre-existing international agreements not consistent
with the bill, and outlaw the use of terms like "sexual
orientation," "sexual minorities," and "gender identity" to describe
homosexuality or "gender identity disorders."

4. (U) Human rights groups and legal experts have noted that the
bill, if passed, would subject government officials, health care
providers, human rights advocates, parents, and teachers to fines or
potential prison time for failing to report homosexual orientation
or activity to local authorities.

Status of the Bill in Parliament

5. (U) Although Bahati belongs to the ruling NRM party, he
introduced his legislation as a "private members' bill," meaning the
bill is not sponsored by the Ugandan government. After reviewing
the bill, Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee will hold public
hearings and then make its recommendation to the rest of Parliament,
likely in January 2010.

6. (U) Meanwhile, State Minister for Ethics and Integrity Nsaba
Buturo is actively lobbying for the bill's passage. Buturo is a
frequent and vocal critic of homosexuality. In response to U.S.
press guidance describing the bill as "a significant step backwards
for the protection of human rights in Uganda," Buturo told local
journalists on October 29 that international donors "should mind
their own business." Quoted by the Associated Press, Buturo said:
"We are really getting tired of this phrase 'human rights'. It is
being abused."

The "Anti-Human Rights" Bill

7. (U) An October 23 statement by a coalition of 22 local and
international human rights NGOs described the legislation as an
"anti-human rights" bill and said it "represents one of the most
serious attacks to date" on the Ugandan Constitution. "In short,"
reads the joint statement, "this bill targets everybody, and
involves everybody; it cannot be implemented without making every
citizen spy on his or her neighbors. The last time this was done
was in the [Idi] Amin era, where everyone very quickly became an
'enemy of the state'. It amounts to a direct invasion of our homes,
and will promote blackmail, false accusations, and outright
intimidation of certain members of the population."

8. (U) The NGO coalition also published full-page advertisements
condemning the bill in Uganda's leading newspapers. The coalition
has noted that the legislation violates at least eight articles of
the Ugandan Constitution as well as the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of
Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the

KAMPALA 00001271 002 OF 002

Child, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.

9. (SBU) One local NGO coalition member, Sexual Minorities of Uganda
(SMUG), told PolOff on October 23 that the draft legislation was
already adversely impacting gay and lesbian Ugandans by subjecting
them to increased stigmatization. SMUG said its members would
likely be forced to seek asylum abroad if the bill becomes law.
Just days after Bahati introduced the bill, Uganda's main opposition
newspaper published a cartoon depicting gay and lesbian Ugandans
running for the gates of foreign embassies in Kampala.

Museveni: No War with Homosexuals

10. (SBU) During an October 24 meeting with Assistant Secretary
Carson, President Museveni said Uganda is not interested in a "war
with homosexuals" and agreed that the proposed legislation goes "too
far." After learning that the bill was submitted to Parliament by a
member of his own party, Museveni said he would discourage the
legislation (septel).

Comment: Preventing Legalized Persecution

11. (SBU) In December 2008 the High Court ruled that the Ugandan
government violated the rights of a SMUG member by raiding his home
without a warrant. In its decision, the Court affirmed that
constitutional rights apply to all Ugandans, regardless of sexual
orientation (ref. A). Bahati's legislation seeks to undo the High
Court's ruling by legalizing the persecution of gays and lesbians.
Ugandan society is strongly opposed to homosexuality and homosexuals
are regularly subjected to intimidation and harassment (ref. B). On
November 2, a leading Ugandan human rights activist told us it is
difficult for traditional local human rights organizations to take a
public stand against the bill for fear of losing public support.
Even with strong private and public statements of condemnation by
human rights NGOs and the international donor community, Bahati's
bill stands a reasonable chance of passing unless President Museveni
himself intervenes. We will continue to urge Ugandan authorities to
ensure the protection of human rights by opposing this legislation.

© Scoop Media

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