Hellen Grace Asamo, the State Minister for Disability
The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development has asked Parliament to provide for the provision of in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023 for the rehabilitation of homosexuals, especially among infants and also create special cells within prisons in order to stop the ‘vice’ from spreading amongst other inmates.
The proposal was fronted by Hellen Grace Asamo, the State Minister for Disability, while appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee to give her views on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023.
Asamo argued, “We propose a provision that the Minister responsible for prison services shall provide special facilities to isolate homosexual offences to prevent them from continuing with the practice and protect other inmates from falling victims of homosexual practices.”
The Minister proposed the same practice among juvenile homosexual children, arguing that leaving them detained amongst the straight children would provide fertile ground to teaching the other children homosexuality.
However, the Minister’s proposal received criticism from some MPs like Fox Odoi (West Budama North East) who described the proposal as draconian and oppressive to the rights of homosexuals.
“The proposal to isolate homosexual offenders is draconian and abusive and oppressive. Is that what you want to achieve? Do you just want to have a draconian and oppressive law against the homosexuals? On top of enhanced sentence we must confine you to a cell within the cell? I think at one point you will suggest that we should lock you up in darkness. If we don’t stop at one point, that is the path we are headed to and that is my concern,” argued Fox.
Robiah Rwakoojo (Chairperson Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee backed the proposal of isolating homosexuals from other inmates saying there are already reports of homosexuality in prisons in Uganda.
She said, “I was worried about the fact of the offenders getting there and continuing to offend others. Somebody said that it appears there is a problem in Luzira when people get there, they are sodomised it is like you are going to take somebody there because they have committed some offence and then they are further sodomised.”
Minister Asamo raised concern over the absence of provision of psychological rehabilitation for victims of homosexuality who argued that homosexuality is simply a psychological disorientation that calls for rehabilitation of the people taking part in the practice.
“The victim of homosexuality shall be provided with rehabilitation and psychological support services to minimize trauma and mental ill health,” said Minister Asamo.
Paul Kwizera (Kisoro Municipality) tasked the Minister to explain why she wants to deal with a psychological problem with a custodial sentence instead of involving medical expertise if indeed homosexuality is a psychological disorientation.
“You observed that homosexuality is a psychological disorientation, that doesn’t easily get out of somebody’s mind, but then you also recommend that it should be punished. I don’t know whether the two can be reconciled that psychological disorientation can be addressed with punitive actions. I would expect that actually, psychological issues are handled medically rather than custodial sentences,” said Kwizera.
Odoi tasked the Ministry of Gender to explain the competence it has to rehabilitate homosexuals wondering why the Ministry would front the idea that homosexuals are psychologically disoriented, yet the same Ministry is proposing to stigmatise homosexuals by taking them through a process that leads to conviction and by issuing a custodial sentence?
“Must you stigmatise them by taking them through a process that leads to conviction? What core competence do you have as a Ministry to rehabilitate this particular category of children? What core personnel, what institution do you have specialized in dealing with homosexual children and if you don’t have, how many as you plan have you sent for training that en and if you don’t have them in your plan, for the implementation of this proposal how many people have you sent for training on rehabilitation?” asked Fox.
The Minister in her proposal called for a recasting in the objectives of The Anti-Homosexuality Bill to provide for an enhanced legislation to protect the traditional family institution and cultural practices.
Her proposal attracted questions from Fox Odoi, tasking her to furnish the Committee with a copy of Uganda’s cultural values and practices,, given the fact that Uganda has 54 tribes, all bearing diverse cultural practices, wondering the basis the Ministry relied upon to summarise that Uganda has a nationally agreed upon cultural practices.
He said, “We live in a very diverse society where statements like cultural values, traditional institutions can never be defined. Educate me, state clearly what are the traditional family institutions and also educate me on the cultural values of Uganda that I must legislate for? And tell me how you arrive at those values, when did you build consensus to come to those values, who did you consult and if I am looking for this, which document do I go to?”