Ugandan Government now disowns anti-gay bill but minister says debate is good

A Ugandan cabinet minister has said the government does not support the Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009 which was tabled for debate on Tuesday this week in Parliament.

However, he was quick to add that the debate on homosexuality was good for Uganda.

Ethics and Integrity Minister, Lokodo Simon who is also a Catholic priest said, “Whilst the government of Uganda does not support this bill, it is required under our constitution to facilitate this debate. The facilitation of this debate should not be confused for the government’s support for this bill.”

The minister said in a press statement posted on the official website of Uganda Media Centre under the Office of the President that Uganda has today been the subject of mass international criticism as a result of the debate on the Anti-Homosexual Bill in parliament.

The statement reads in part, “What many of these critics fail to convey is the bill itself was introduced by a back bencher. It does not form part of the government’s legislative programme and it does not enjoy the support of the Prime Minister or the Cabinet.”

The minister added, “However as Uganda is a constitutional democracy, it is appropriate that if a private members bill is presented to parliament it be debated.”

The minister claimed that contrary to reports, the bill before parliament, even if it were to pass, would not sanction the death penalty for homosexual behaviour in Uganda.

He said many international governments and politicians, who have criticised Uganda for debating this private members bill, remain mute in the face of far graver and far more draconian legislation relating to homosexuality in other countries.

The minister said, “One might ask for example, if Uganda enjoyed as close a relationship with the US and European countries as Saudi Arabia (which sentences homosexuals to corporal and capital punishment) would we have attracted the same opprobrium as a result of allowing this parliamentary debate.”

The government’s position is sending mixed signals across the board.

Karooro Okurut, the government’s official spokeswoman, told Behind the Mask Monday in Kampala, “Government is not interested in the bill” and that Cabinet had taken its final stand on the bill last year by rejecting it.

However, Okello Oryem, Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister who led a government’s delegation to the Universal Periodic Review of Uganda at the UN Human Rights Council Peer Review last year said “Uganda must exercise separation of powers between the executive, parliament and the judiciary.”

He was non committal about whether the bill had genuinely been dropped by government.

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