Reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa—
After intense international criticism, proponents of an anti-gay bill before Uganda’s parliament have removed a punitive clause that called for hanging people who have consensual homosexual sex.
However, they were expected to push ahead with the measure, which criminalizes the promotion of homosexuality.
The bill was to be debated Wednesday, the last day of the current parliament, but was dropped from the agenda. There were reports it might be debated Friday in an special session.
If not, the bill can be reintroduced when the new parliament convenes.
Anti-gay activists have promoted the measure aggressively since it was introduced in 2009, accusing gays of recruiting children. Gay activists say anti-homosexual sentiment has sharpened, leading to beatings of gays and forcing many to hide their sexual orientation.
In January, gay activist David Kato was slain after a Ugandan newspaper, Rolling Stone, published names and photographs of gays under the headline "Hang them!"
The maneuvering over the timing of the parliamentary vote comes amid increasing criticism of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni over rights abuses after recent protests over fuel and food prices were violently crushed by police, killing at least nine people. Opposition leaders have been repeatedly harassed and arrested.
Museveni, once seen in the West as a model democrat, is due to be sworn in Thursday for another five-year term. He has ruled since 1986.
Homosexuality is abhorred in many parts of Africa, regarded as un-African, against Christian values and a Western perversion.
The bill was condemned in its original form as "odious" by President Obama, and has been attacked by groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. More than 1.4 million people have signed an online petition opposing the bill.
"It is deeply alarming that the Ugandan parliament is again considering this appalling bill, which flies in the face of human decency and violates international human rights law," said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Africa.
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