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Agence France-Presse

Ugandan MP to drop death penalty clause in anti-gay bill


KAMPALA, Feb 10, 2012 (AFP) - A Ugandan lawmaker behind a proposed
draconian anti-gay bill that sparked an international outcry said Friday he
wanted to drop clauses seeking the death penalty for certain homosexual acts.

"There will be no death penalty at all... that will go," David Bahati, the
legislator who formulated the bill, told AFP.

Bahati said he wanted to scrap proposals to punish "aggravated
homosexuality," which includes someone deemed to be a "serial offender" with
the death sentence.

The MP reintroduced the contentious bill Tuesday after lawmakers ran out of
time to debate the measure last year and voted to pass it on to the new
session of parliament.

Parliament officials said Thursday that the bill -- which US President
Barack Obama has described as "odious" -- had been reintroduced in its
original format, which included the death penalty clause.

Bahati, however, said the proposed legislation was already in the process
of being changed, following recommendations made during the last parliament.

"The death penalty is not part of the process that we are talking about,"
Bahati said, adding he was also dropping proposals to jail family members if
they failed to report gay relatives to the authorities.

Proposals to jail people who said they were married to someone of the same
sex would also be scrapped, he said.

"Those are not part of it," Bahati said.

The bill, as it was originally proposed, would have introduced 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.

Bahati said the bill was now focused on stopping the promotion of gay
rights, and retains a proposal to criminalise public discussion of
homosexuality with a heavy prison sentence.

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

The bill has been sent to the parliament's legal affair committee, which
must then report back to parliament within 45 days.

"I think this time around we will cover good ground on the bill," Bahati
said, adding he was hopeful the legislation will be debated.

The bill enjoys widespread backing from Ugandan lawmakers but the
government on Wednesday said it did not support the proposed legislation,
although it defended parliament's right to discuss it.

"It does not form part of the government's legislative programme and it
does not enjoy the support of the prime minister or the cabinet," the
government said in the statement.

"However, as Uganda is a constitutional democracy, it is appropriate that
if a private member's bill is presented to parliament it be debated."

The reintroduction of the bill sparked strong criticism from rights groups.
Amnesty International urged MPs to reject it.

"Even if the death penalty provisions in the original bill have been
removed, the other provisions remain inherently discriminatory," said Michelle
Kagari, the rights group's Africa programme director.

She added the attempt to further criminalise gay consensual sexual activity
was "abhorrent".


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