Dar plans to introduce tougher anti-gay Bill

Saturday March 29 2014

By EMMANUEL MUGA Special Correspondent

As Uganda battles donor backlash for passing a law that outlaws homosexuality, a Tanzanian MP is working on a private member’s Bill that seeks to tighten the law against same sex relationships.

Ezekiel Wenje from the main opposition Chama cha Democrasia na Maendeleo party told The EastAfrican that he had already given parliament notice of his intention to draft the Bill.

“In line with parliament’s Standing Orders, I submitted my proposal for enactment of a new anti-gay law called The Bill to Prohibit and Control any form of Sexual Relations between Persons of the Same Sex, 2014, and it has been received in parliament,” he said.

Mr Wenje invoked Rule 81(1) and (2) of parliament to submit his proposal for the intended Bill, but he will need the support of majority members to push it through.

“The work to draft the Bill has started. I am being supported by MPs from my party; I also have support from other parties including Chama Cha Mapinduzi,” he said.

Mr Wenje said homosexuality is on the rise in Tanzania because the existing legislation does not provide a sufficient deterrent.

Under the current law, convicted suspects face custodial sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment. According to Section 154 of the Act, any person who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature is liable to imprisonment for life.

But Wenje said the law does not cover those who induce others to become gays or those who promote the behaviour.

He said there are many gays in Dar es Salaam who operate in the open, go to bars and social places, and that more young people are choosing the lifestyle.

Mr Wenje is optimistic that his Bill will receive support from his colleagues and eventually get passed into law despite a predictable donor stance on the issue.

“We should not care about aid, we should care about our values and the future of the country,” he said when asked if passing of such law would not lead to donor’s freezing aid like is happening in Uganda.

Uganda has suffered aid cuts following the decision by President Yoweri Museveni to sign a private member’s Bill into law in February.

The US and Nordic countries have announced withdrawal of financial support for a number of programmes that triggered a 2.5 per cent depreciation of the Uganda shilling over the last three days of February.

The currency has since continued to slide and oil companies have responded by adjusting pump prices for petroleum products up by an average 10 per cent.

Like Uganda, where the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014 started as a private members bill in 2009, Mr Wenje’s proposal is likely to gain popularity across the political divide.

In public statements, Tanzanian leaders have expressed opposition to gay practices, with Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda saying, “even animals don’t do that.”

The chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, former prime minister Edward Lowassa said Tanzanians cannot accept homosexuality, and that they will continue to uphold their  independence and dignity.