Uganda anti-gay bill 'shelved by parliament'

Published: May 13, 2011

Uganda’s parliament has adjourned without debating a controversial bill which includes the death penalty for some homosexual acts.

It had been reported that a vote could be held on Friday.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been condemned by Western leaders and human rights groups, some of whom have welcomed their "victory".

The bill, first introduced in 2009, could still be brought up when the new parliament meets later this year.

Uganda is a largely conservative society and many people condemn homosexuality both as un-African and un-Christian.

But in recent years, some gay rights groups have been set up in the country.

Homosexual acts are already illegal in Uganda but the bill would increase the penalty for those convicted to life in prison.

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.

‘Important steps’

Avaaz, an internet campaign group, said the bill’s lack of progress was a "victory for all Ugandans and people across the world who value human rights", reports the AP news agency.

"We must now ensure this heinous bill can never return to parliament again," said Avaaz campaign director Alice Jay.

David Bahati, the MP who introduced the private member’s bill, said he would try to re-introduce it when the next parliament convened after February’s elections, and said it had achieved his goal of sparking debate.

"We have made important steps in raising the issue and that will continue," he was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

Earlier this week, one of the Christian pastors who helped inspire the legislation said he did not support the death penalty clause.

But Pastor Martin Ssempa urged MPs to pass the legislation.

In January, David Kato, a campaigner who led condemnation of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, was murdered not long after suing a paper that outed him as gay. Police denied the killing was because of his sexuality.

Three months before the murder, Uganda’s Rolling Stone newspaper had published the photographs of several people it said were gay, with the headline "Hang them."

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