By Dumisani Dube
On Monday Ugandan Members of Parliament passed the Sexual Offenses Bill, 2019, which if signed into law by the President will seek to address various sexual offences in the country. This includes same-sex interactions.
According to the bill, persons convicted of sexual offences will have their data registered with the National Identification and Registration Authority (Nira). This bill comes a few days before Yoweri Museveni is inaugurated into office for his 5th term.
Back in 2019 the lawmakers put up for debate the Anti-Homosexual bill which sought to eliminate and silence the Queer community, the bill was not signed but the Sexual offences act remained in play.
According to Brian Kanyemba, Managing Director of Advocacy for Prevention of HIV and Aids in Africa based in Kampala the bill affects Key populations across the board. Kanyemba says “Uganda was becoming a little bit forgiving in as far a homosexuality was concerned, but the country is rooted on religious ground of Christians and Muslims alike and this is a step back for civil society” Concerned about the health of Key Populations Kanyemba says “Key Populations health and PLHWAs prevention services demand seem to have declined ever since the Sexual Offences bill was published. Gay men and MSM fear incarceration as it were witnessed during the recent elections at the beginning of the year when 20 gay men were arrested at a Drop In Centre where there were seeking health care services”
Commenting on the bill, Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) Director Chesterfield said “It was a further entrenchment of the archaic colonial laws on same sex prohibitions and a painful reminder to CSOs on the dictates of intersectionality. There is need for various groups to understand that the oppression faced by different groups is a rallying call for unity against any system that marginalises or denies rights to any group of people.”
In this bill there is a clause that is seen as an attempt to introduce the concept of marital rape in Ugandan law, which currently does not recognize rape when the perpetrator is married to his victim. The final version of the Bill deletes this clause, leaving married women without any legal protections against marital rape and supports societal beliefs that excuse violence against women if it takes place in a marriage. Sexual and gender-based violence is a key driver of HIV, the Bill misses an opportunity to protect married women and to unequivocally condemn intimate partner violence.
Unhappy with this development Ugandan Human Rights activist Dr Stella Nyanzi took to Facebook and wrote “Parliament of Uganda passed the Sexual Offences Bill into an act of parliament, on Monday of this week. There are several minority groups affected by this revised repressive law including same-sex loving people, sex workers, people living with HIV/AIDS, and those who may withdraw consent having started a sexual encounter.” Dr Nyanzi continued with some advice for the President saying “As a PhD holder with specialisation in human sexuality studies, I advise dictator Museveni to reject this act of parliament that now sits on his desk, awaiting his signature of assent.”
Speaking on behalf of ED Freedom and Roam Uganda activist Joanita Warry Ssenfuka also expressed her disappointment lamenting “If the bill is passed it will be okay for your husband to rape and nothing will be done about it, the bill will officially criminalise homosexuality. It will be a crime to date and love someone of the same-sex in this land.”
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Uganda face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Activists estimated in 2007 that the Ugandan LGBT community consisted of 500,000 people. Both male and female homosexual activity is illegal. Non-vaginal intercourse (such as oral sex and anal sex) between heterosexuals is also illegal. Under the Penal Code, “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” between two males carries a potential penalty of life imprisonment. The Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014 was passed on 17 December 2013 with a punishment of life in prison for “aggravated homosexuality” The law brought Uganda into the international spotlight, and caused international outrage, with many governments refusing to provide aid to Uganda anymore. (Wikipedia)
What this Bill addresses:
● Whereas the Penal Code Act, Cap. 120 provides for a numbers of sexual offences, the provisions are outdated and the ingredients constituting the offences are narrow, given the fact that they do not reflect the evolving trends in social attitudes, values and sexual practices.
● New forms of sexual violence and exploitation have emerged, such as sex tourism, indecent communication and child marriages, which are not provided for, making it difficult to deal with it.
● The Penal Code Act, Act. 120 is also limited in as far as combating sexual violence on Ugandan citizens while outside the country.
● It is necessary to have specific law on sexual offences to provide for the effectual prevention of sexual violence.
Types of sexual offence
● Aggravated rape
● Sexual assault
● Indecent communication
● Sexual harassment
● Detention with sexual intent
● Sexual act with person in custody
● Sexual exploitation
● Unnatural offences
● Aggravated defilement
● Procuring defilement
● Sexual offence by children
● Household permitting defilement
● Supply of sexual content and material to a child
● Child prostitution
● Child sex tourism
● Sexual act in presence of child
● Marriage involving child