Ugandan lawmakers promise to revive their anti-gay law, just days after the country’s constitutional court struck it down


Kenyan supporters of the LGBT community stage a protest against Uganda's anti-gay bill. (Dai Kurokawa/EPA)

Just days after the country's constitutional court struck it down, some Ugandan lawmakers and religious leaders are pushing to revive the country's controversial law that criminalized homosexuality with a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Because the court invalidated the law on what its supporters are calling a "technicality" (it was passed in Parliament without a quorum), its backers want to pass the same law again, as quickly as possible.

On Tuesday, members of parliament supporting a new version of the measure held a press conference to announce that they would try to push a nearly identical version of the Anti Homosexuality Act through parliament within the next three days. The legislators claim to have nearly 100 of their colleagues signed up for the newest attempt to pass the law, according to government watchdog site Parliament Watch.

The latest version of the law would look more or less like the old law, imposing stiff jail terms on homosexual individuals and organizations who work on LGBT rights in the country.

However, there could be one addition this time: Parlimentarian Nabilah Naggayi Sempala said at the news conference that she'd like to see the law criminalize the act of heterosexual anal intercourse.

It's not clear whether the lawmakers could meet their promise for a swift reinstatement of the law without putting themselves at risk for another court challenge on procedural grounds: Their plan to fast-track the law would involve suspending the rules in order to avoid starting over with a new bill.

Current Ugandan law still criminalizes homosexual relationships. However, the law invalidated by the country's court system expanded the scope of that criminalization and imposed much harsher penalties.

The bill was originally introduced in 2009 by parlimentarian David Bahati, who dodged Buzzfeed's question on whether he supported his colleague Latif Sebagala's fast-track approach to the new effort:

"Whether it's tomorrow or a week or a month, we will take whatever time is required to make sure that the future of our children is protected, the family is protected, and the sovereignty nation of the protected. The issues of technicalities is not a big deal to anybody. But the big deal … is that homosexuality is not a human right here in Uganda."

Bahati has previously said that the Ugandan government would appeal to the country's Supreme Court over the ruling, opening the door to the reinstatement of the law without parliamentary acrobatics.

The country's top Anglican leader agrees that the law should be reinstated. On Monday, Anglican Archbishop Stanley Ntagali said the law was needed to "protect" Ugandans.

"The 'court of public opinion' has clearly indicated its support for the Act, and we urge parliament to consider voting again on the bill with the proper quorum in place," he said, according to the Religion News Service.

The Anti Homosexuality Act -- colloquially referred to by its opponents as the "jail the gays" law -- originally proposed imposing the death penalty for repeated homosexual acts. Although reportedly popular among many Ugandans, the bill has understandably long been the subject of a series of international controversies. Among them: questions about the involvement of a handful of fundamentalist American Christians in its inception.

Once passed and signed by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in February, the law prompted many Western countries to suspend their aid to Uganda in protest.

Abby Ohlheiser is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.
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