Ugandan bill 'to stop promotion of gay rights'
Kampala – A Ugandan lawmaker behind a proposed draconian anti-gay bill that sparked an international outcry said on Friday that the bill was now focused on criminalising public discussion of homosexuality with a heavy prison sentence.
David Bahati said the bill was now focused on stopping the promotion of gay rights, saying he wanted to drop clauses that would see the death penalty introduced for certain homosexual acts.
"There will be no death penalty at all...that will go," 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 controversial bill on 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 on 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.
However, Bahati 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.
Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, but the proposed bill has previously attracted heavy criticism for the draconian penalties it proposed.
The bill enjoys widespread backing from Ugandan lawmakers but the government on Wednesday said that it did not support the proposed legislation, although it defended parliament's right to discuss it.