Uganda shelves anti-gay bill

2011-05-13 16:50

Kampala - Uganda's parliament on Friday shelved an anti-gay bill that would have imposed the death penalty for certain homosexual acts after the United States slammed the proposed legislation as "odious".

Lawmakers had been due to debate the legislation calling for capital punishment notably for consensual gay sex where one partner has the HIV virus.

The United States, a major aid donor to Uganda, said on Thursday that nothing could justify passing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Parliament speaker Edward Ssekandi said he was "adjourning this house", effectively killing off the debate over the controversial legislation for this parliament.

David Bahati, the lawmaker behind the anti-gay bill, said that no bills could be passed as the cabinet was dissolved following the inauguration of President Yoweri Museveni on Thursday following a landslide election victory in February.

But he said that even if the bill was not passed this session it had achieved the goal of sparking a debate that would continue when the new parliament convenes.

"We have made important steps in raising the issue and that will continue," he said.

Mounting pressure

Frank Mugisha, executive director of the rights group Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), voiced relief over the adjournment, but warned: "We shall continue advocating because the bill could come back next parliament."

Parliament's current session ends on Wednesday, but since Monday and Tuesday will be given over to the swearing-in of new parliamentarians, officials said that Friday is effectively the last day bills could be discussed before the recess.

Ssekandi said he reserved the right to reconvene parliament in case of an emergency, but rights group Avaaz also welcomed the news of the decision to "drop" the legislation from parliamentary discussions.

The adjournment came a day after Museveni was sworn for a fourth term amid mounting pressure on the country over its moves to crush both the opposition and the gay community.

Museveni's security forces Thursday teargassed supporters of his rival Kizza Besigye, sending several people to hospital.

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said: "No amendments, no changes would justify the passage of this odious bill."

Uganda - an important ally in the fight against Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked rebels - received $526m in development aid last year.

Australia also added its voice to global criticism of the anti-gay bill first introduced in 2009.

"We have expressed the government's condemnation of the content of the bill," Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said in a statement on Thursday.

Aggravated homosexuality

The bill calls for the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality," that is in cases of rape of a minor by a person of the same sex, or where one partner carries the virus that can cause Aids.

It also proposes to criminalise public discussion of homosexuality and would penalise an individual who knowingly rents property to a homosexual.

"It would require anyone who knows of or has heard of any homosexual activity to report that to police within 24 hours," said Maria Burnett of Human Rights Watch's Africa division.

Burnett said the clause would be in violation of "all levels of confidentiality for doctors, counsellors or priests".

Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, punishable by life imprisonment in some instances.

  • Sooth Slayer - 2011-05-13 17:02

    question is, would the US shelve any bill they wanted to pass if Uganda were to call it "odious"?

      sam - 2011-05-13 17:56

      maybe if uganda gave the US $526 million every year they would listen to them! thats not the point here, however. the point is that this anti-gay bill is disgusting and absolutely unacceptable. Uganda doesnt even deserve $1 dollar of aid from anyone whilst they still have draconian laws like this! its pathethic. bunch of hypocrites is what they are!

      MactheKnife - 2011-05-13 18:01

      Probably not because Uganda, given its history, would hardly think of anything as being odious. Let's stick to principles.

      Sooth Slayer - 2011-05-15 19:22

      How do the majority of the Ugandans feel about homosexuality and this bill? Call them hypocrites or from the dark ages, but is democracy not the rule of the majority? What do we call it when the majority have to twist and give up their beliefs in favour of the minority? The sad thing here is that in Uganda as in many other African countries, its no longer about what the people want or do not want. its what the big donor monies want, even when they are in the minority.

      chellspecker - 2011-05-16 23:18

      The point is that Uganda has drawn shame and scorn upon itself from the whole world with this hateful law, and the more people who know about it, the better, despite Uganda's frustration at now being known as the "world's homophobia capital." Poor Uganda, now no one likes them because they call for the death of their own citizens. As for Americans, they might want to pay some serious attention to their poor international reputation as a culturally retarded nation of gluttonous, uneducated, self-important, immature and small-minded xenophobes full of a sense of entitlement they bring with them everywhere they go.

  • sam - 2011-05-13 17:45

    shocking and sad that in this modern day and age we still have SO many countries living in the dark ages! shame on you Uganda!

  • Davorin - 2011-05-13 18:48

    Agreed Sam. The Ugandan parliament is wasting time and energy on something as hateful and backwards as this law instead of focusing on something actually relevant; like corruption, crime, education etc. Really pathetic Uganda, get your priorities straight.

      sam - 2011-05-13 18:59

      Yes Davorin, they are not only wasting time but also money! probably some of that $526 million they receive in aid every year which should be going to the poor people who really need it. instead its being used by corrupt, homophobic idiots! so, in their view its wrong to be gay, but its NOT wrong to MURDER someone who is found to be gay??? are these people simply stupid or what??

  • Bee - 2011-05-13 18:50

    This is rather fresh coming from the US - a country so rife with homophobia and obsessed with "family values" that gay couples can't even get legally married. But I suppose we should be grateful that the passing of the bill was put on hold - for whatever reason.

      sam - 2011-05-13 18:56

      u r right that the US is still homophobic and that in most states, not all, gay people cannot get married. but being gay is NOT ILLEGAL in any US states, thats a far cry from whats happening in Uganda right now.

      x - 2011-05-14 14:15

      Ironically, this bill and the general anti-gay bias in Uganda was mostly fueled by Evangelical American churches preaching in Uganda. Now the evangalists are all claiming this was not what they intended. How convenient.

  • GinSA1 - 2011-05-14 06:45

    The object of the Bill is Biblical

      chellspecker - 2011-05-16 22:59

      That doesn't make any sense, maybe you would care to elaborate? On second thought, to be honest, I'm not really that interested in what you have to say after that opener.

      rickyp - 2011-05-17 14:26

      Maybe there were prohibitions on a man having sex with another man in the Old Testament that specifically called for the death penalty, but those were given to Israel only. And as Christians we are not under the Law in the same way as they were- and there is no death penalty outside it. Jesus did not come into the world to condemn it, but to save it- ought we not to be following in the Master's footsteps? (Assuming you are Christian).

  • Lorne Johnson - 2011-05-16 16:47

    We have no right to judge Uganda, yet we do have a right to send that Nation and its people Love and Light now that's biblical 1000% .

  • chellspecker - 2011-05-16 23:31

    Actually, according to the BBC, "Those found guilty of of "aggravated homosexuality" - defined as when one of the participants is a minor, HIV-positive, disabled or a "serial offender" - would face the death penalty." Meaning anyone having gay sex more than once could be put to death. Considering how fun it is, who wouldn't be a serial offender?

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