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Rights group slam revived Uganda anti-gay bill




 

KAMPALA, Feb 8, 2012 (AFP) - Gay rights activists on Wednesday condemned
the reintroduction before Uganda's parliament of a bill that calls for the
death penalty for certain homosexual acts and sparked an international outcry.

David Bahati, the MP behind the bill, formally reintroduced the legislation
Tuesday after lawmakers voted last year to automatically pass it over to the
new session after failing to debate it.

Frank Mugisha, the director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), voiced
disappointment over the revival of the bill.

"We thought it would come back, but with all the condemnation from local
and international human rights groups we had hoped that Bahati would
reconsider it, or that parliament would move to strike it down immediately,"
Mugisha told AFP.

"It is just bringing everything bad up again, but we remain committed to
fighting it and challenging it in all ways possible," he added.

Originally tabled in 2009, the bill calls for "serial offender(s)" to face
the death penalty, and proposes jail sentences for family members and
landlords who fail to report homosexuals to the authorities.

Lawmakers applauded Bahati as the bill -- which US President Barack Obama
has described as "odious" -- was introduced, clapping their hands, thumping
the seats in parliament and chanting "our bill."

Parliament spokeswoman Helen Kawesa said the bill was reintroduced in its
original form, with the death penalty clause still included.

"It is the same as before," Kawesa told AFP.

The speaker urged parliament to deal with the bill quickly, but Kawesa
could not say when it would be debated as it had to first be discussed by a
committee.

"It now has to go to the legal committee... as the parliament is new, so
the committee is new and needs to consider it," Kawesa said.

Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, but the proposed bill has
previously attracted heavy criticism for the draconian penalties it proposed.

It would introduce the death sentence for anyone caught engaging in
homosexual acts for the second time, as well as for gay sex where one partner
is a minor or has HIV.

It also proposes to criminalise public discussion of homosexuality --
including by rights groups -- with a sentence of up to seven years in prison.

At an African Union summit last month, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in
an unusually outspoken declaration, told African leaders to respect gay
rights, a controversial matter in many African states.

Michelle Kagari, Deputy Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International,
urged parliament to "reject this bill in its entirety" as it "must not
legislate hate."

"If passed, it would represent a grave assault on the human rights of all
Ugandans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity," Kagari
said in a statement late Tuesday.

The bill now must pass the legal affairs committee for public hearings and
discussion before debate in parliament can proceed, a process expected
potentially to take at least several months.

While it went through this process in the last parliamentary session, the
bill must be reconsidered as it is a new parliament with new members of the
legal committee.

"A lynch mob is being whipped up by extremist MPs and evangelical leaders
determined to brutally punish and execute people simply for who they choose to
love," said Ricken Patel of Avaaz, an online global activist group.

"Global condemnation stopped this vile law twice before, now we need a
tidal wave of outrage to kill it for good."

Ugandan gay rights activists have braved hostility as they fight popular
criticism. Last year leading gay rights activist David Kato was found
bludgeoned to death at his home outside Kampala.

In November, a Ugandan court sentenced Enoch Nsubuga, 22, to 30 years in
jail after he admitted beating Kato to death with a hammer. Nsubuga had
claimed he was reacting to unwanted sexual advances.




 


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