Ugandan MP backs down on death penalty clause in anti-gay bill

Local and international pressure over the notorious “Kill the gays Bill” seems to have forced the Ugandan MP who drafted the bill to back down, slightly. 

The French news agency (AFP) and the BBC are now reporting that the Ugandan MP who drafted the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that sparked an international outcry has said he wants to drop the death penalty clause.

However, the bill retains its hard line approach to homosexuality as the AFP quotes Bahati as saying, 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.

According to an AFP report published this morning, Bahati said he wanted to scrap proposals to punish “aggravated homosexuality,” which includes someone deemed to be a “serial offender” with the death sentence.

According to BBC Online, Bahati said that for procedural reasons, the bill had been reintroduced in its original form but that the provision for capital punishment would be removed at committee stage.

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.

The BBC reported that Ugandan MPs had laughed, clapped and cried out: “Our bill, our bill,” when its architect David Bahati reintroduced the draft legislation on Tuesday. 

The AFP report said 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.

According to AFP, “Bahati said the proposed legislation was already in the process of being changed, following recommendations made during the last parliament.”

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

The report says that 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 from world leaders such as US president Barack Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon for the draconian penalties it proposed.

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