No Verification That Death Penalty Has Been Removed From Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill
Rachel Tabachnick printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 11:36:35 PM EST
Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin warns that journalists are once again prematurely reporting that the death penalty has been removed from Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Burroway posted a list of over a dozen examples since December 2009 of similar false reports, including from PBS, AP, and the BBC. The speaker of the parliament has promised that the bill will become law this year as a "Christmas present" to the Ugandan people,  but it is unclear if the bill has come out of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. Also, the Washington Blade quotes a source from the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, warning that the committee "is incapable of removing the infamous death penalty provision from the legislation." The article quotes another source saying that State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland may have "misspoke" on Monday about the bill coming out of committee.
On November 23, All Africa reported,
The Legal and Parliamentary committee has today endorsed a report prescribing life imprisonment to the offence of aggravated homosexuality in the controversial bill.

On Tuesday, November 27, All Africa also implied that the death penalty had been removed by the legislative committee, although the reference was vague.

Meanwhile the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson was in Uganda this weekend, reiterating the US administration's "vocal" concerns about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill under consideration here, the spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Regarding questions about the death penalty, which has been a penalty for "aggravated homosexuality" in earlier versions of the bill, Nuland said she didn't know whether the State Department has seen a version of the bill as passed by a legislative committee in Uganda's parliament. But these penalties have been removed from the bill after revision by the committee the speaker said.

It's unclear whether the "speaker" referenced in the article is Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga and according to the Washington Blade, the State Department has admitted that Nuland "misspoke."  The All Africa article described the anticipated passage of the bill as a "Christmas present to the Ugandan people."  From  the article,
The bill was denied in 2009 but resurfaced this year in February when the parliament resumed its proceedings.

MPs applauded as Ndorwa West MP, David Bahati, took to the floor to re-introduce the controversial Bill for reference to the appropriate committee.
After re-tabling the Bill, MPs both on the ruling side and the opposition gave Bahati a standing ovation. "Our Bill, our man," the legislators chanted.

The speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga and the President when asked about the bill gave their positions clearly that they are not in support of homosexuality in Uganda a position which most Ugandans considered patriotic.

The speaker spoke to journalists saying that they will need two weeks to finally pass this law as a Christmas present to the Ugandan people.

Regarding the claims of the removal of the death penalty, Burroway  warns,
Journalists with very short attention spans might believe it, but I don't. And neither should you until we can all see it in writing -- and the recommendation is adopted by the full Parliament. Nothing gets dropped until that vote takes place, and it hasn't happened yet.

Burroway has documented previous attempts by Ugandan legislators to mislead the press about removing the death penalty from the controversial bill, which, if passed, could jeopardize foreign aid. Earlier this month, he described in detail the process through which the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee tried to "sneak" the death penalty provision through in May 2011.  Burroway adds that even if the death penalty is removed, "the bill's other eighteen clauses would still represent a barbaric regression for Uganda's human rights record."  

See Burroway's overview of the 19 original clauses of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, including the provisions that could be used to imprison the family members, doctors, and landlords of homosexuals.




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