Homosexuals in Uganda have expressed displeasure with a discriminating Penal Code which they say is against their fundamental rights to enjoy sex.
They say Uganda’s Penal Code criminalizes their sexual acts which lead to massive violation of their right to privacy. In an Interview with the Unwanted Witness, the Programs Director for Special Minorities in Uganda, Pepe Julian Onzima said, “I know that the Constitution guarantees my right to privacy but unfortunately, with the work I do with my colleagues, people tend to abuse the Penal Code, prosecuting us as long they get to know you are gay, lesbian or transgender.
In turn, they violate our right to privacy as if we do not deserve that right”. Onzima who also doubles as the spokesperson for LGDP in Uganda and in charge of advocacy, says, “For us we do not enjoy that right though I know the Constitution guarantees it as long as you are a human being and at the same time a Ugandan citizen regardless of color, height, race, religion, faith etc.” He explained that gays’ right to privacy under threat in Ugand as it is being violated by “landlords for example.
I don’t own a house but I rent one. “Over the years because of who I am perceived to be, the owners of the places I have been renting have evicted me from their houses forcefully after forcing themselves inside my house without a warning, and evicted me which is unlawful” says Onzima adding that landlords are aided by both local council authorities and the police. Onzima told the unwanted witness that if he was given a chance to make an amendment in the existing penal code, he would look for all the clauses that curtail the enjoyment of privacy regardless on one’s sexual orientation.
“The Penal Code would be designed in a way that every citizen must have his/her rights regardless of the sexual intentions, disability or ability. It should be able to cater for everyone but not promote selective criminalization of some people,” Onzima said. Onzima is categorical in starting that LGGM are “absolutely discriminated in Uganda”. Onzima cannot hide his anger when this writer raises the topic of the Anti-Homosexuality bill 2009 which is before Parliament pending debating.
“That Bill has a number of ridiculous clauses which when passed, even speaking to you right now, would be criminal because you are speaking to me and you have no right to record me because you are promoting homosexuality”. He says, “Its intentions are dangerous because it also goes ahead to violate my right to speak and share information with the society,” adding that, “What kind of life if I don’t have co-existence with the society? That is equivalent to killing me technically”.
The mover of the Bill, the Ndorwa West Member of Parliament, David Bahati, first presented it in 2009 but was committed to Parliament’s Legal and Parliamentary affairs committee for further scrutiny.
Moses Kigozi, Europe based Ugandan gay rights campaigner however, castigates Bahati and the Bill for being intolerant and lacking understanding of what he calls “basic human nature and human development”. “Everyone needs to enjoy their right to privacy without victimization. This is exactly what happened to me when I started coming out to fight for respect of gay people. Everyone including family and friends despised me, called me names, and threatened to bury me alive,” Kigozi told Unwanted Witness in an email.
“I put my life on the line while in Uganda. But my dream is to see a just and fair society for everyone, irrespective of their sexual orientation,” he said Though the latest version of the draft report is still privy to the Committee however, the Unwanted Witness, has learnt that the death penalty against the culprits was dropped.
“We removed the death sentence from the bill and we instead recommended for life imprisonment to persons convicted of committing homosexuality,” an MP who did not want to be named to speak freely, said. “We proposed that the people found with intention to seduce adults and children into the act will be imprisoned for seven years upon conviction”.
The original Anti Homosexuality bill’s clause four, had proposed an offense of ‘aggravated homosexuality’ whose offender would suffer a death sentence after conviction and this offense would be committed by a person who practices homosexual with a person who is below 18 years. Onzima says, though their right to privacy has been violated from almost all corners, they have been able to fight for it through petitioning court for redress.