Uganda’s controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill will be debated tomorrow from 10am Kampala time, after the Ugandan Government extended the current parliamentary session.
The parliamentary session was due to finish on May 11, with the inauguration of the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni (pictured), to occur today, and new parliamentarians elected at this year’s election to be sworn in next week.
Media reported late yesterday that the bill would not make it to a vote after a Ugandan lawmaker told media that he believed that global outcry had pushed the bill off the agenda – but there seems to have been a change of mind.
Global human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned the bill as has the US State Department and the British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
The head of the global Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams has also criticised the law in the majority Christian country.
“Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades,” Williams said in a statement.
“Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible – it seeks to turn pastors into informers.”
Almost half a million people from around the world have signed a petition against the bill.
The petition reads, “To President Museveni of Uganda, Members of the Review Committee, Parliament, and donor governments: We stand with citizens across Uganda who are calling on their government to withdraw the Anti-Homosexual Bill, and to protect the universal human rights embodied in the Ugandan constitution.”
“We urge Uganda’s leaders and donors to join us in rejecting persecution and upholding values of justice and tolerance.”
The petition can still be signed at http://avaaz.org/en/uganda_stop_homophobia_petition/
UPDATE: According to activist group Avaaz and media reports the bill was not passed into law.
A statement on the Avaaz website reads: “Great news — the bill has has been shelved! Together, we’ve won a major fight for equality and justice. Over 1.6 million of us signed the petition opposing the anti-gay bill, tens of thousands of us called our heads of state, and we helped make the attack on gay rights in Uganda a major international news story — and it worked.”
“Today, under intense global pressure, the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament blocked the anti-gay bill from coming to a vote in the emergency session. Now Parliament has closed and the bill has been wiped from the books. It’s not necessarily gone for good, but to be considered again, it would have to be reintroduced as a new bill and go through the whole Parliamentary process — which took 18 months last time.
“Our global outcry made it clear that the world is watching, and demanding that human rights be respected everywhere. Today, we can join our friends in Uganda in celebration of a victory that could save thousands of lives.”