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Activists urge Uganda to reject ‘insidious’ anti-gay bill

Activists urge Uganda to reject ‘insidious’ anti-gay bill

Activists are urging Uganda's politicians to reject the 'kill the gays' bill which returned to parliament yesterday, warning it could have 'grave' consequences for all citizens in the African country.

The anti-homosexuality bill of 2009 includes the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’ and harsh prison terms for gay and lesbian sex.

Despite reports it was off the table, MPs applauded the bill when it was reintroduced in parliament yesterday (7 February), chanting 'our bill'.

Speaking last week in London, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, Frank Mugisha, predicted that if it gets to the floor of the house, the bill will be passed.

A spokesman for international gay rights group The Kaleidoscope Trust condemned the bill and has written to Uganda's president and senate.

'It’s an insidious bill and an attack on basic rights,' he said.

'The problem with the bill is it’s so wide-ranging that it can penalise any human rights defenders who seek to stand up for the rights of LGBT people in Uganda, as well as their friends, family and colleagues.'

Under the bill ‘aggravated homosexuality’ includes sex by a person who is HIV positive, is a parent, authority figure, or who administers intoxicating substances. Sex involving minors and the disabled is also ‘aggravated’ and repeat ‘offenders’ would get the death penalty too.

Other same-sex acts, and involvement in a lesbian or gay marriage would attract life imprisonment. And Ugandans may be extradited back home by the authorities, even if they have same-sex relations outside of the country.

There are also penalties in the bill for people, media, organisations or companies who don’t report gay people they know or support LGBT rights. The intention is to prevent any kind of gay liberation movement in the country.

Amnesty International say the bill is a 'grave assault on human rights.'

Michelle Kagari, deputy Africa programme director at the global rights group, said the knock-on effect of passing the bill would reach far beyond gay and lesbian people in Uganda.

She said: 'This deplorable bill would not only violate the rights of Ugandans to life, to non-discrimination, to equality before the law, and to privacy, but would sanction hatred, violence and the persecution of a group of people based on whom they love alone.

'We strongly urge the Ugandan Parliament to reject this bill in its entirety. It must not legislate hate.'

Uganda has faced a lot of international pressure to axe the bill, leading to the country’s ambassador to the USA, Perezi Kamunanwire, claiming the bill was ‘dead’ last month.

It has also been condemned by former South African president Thabo Mbeki during a visit to Uganda. And the debate is continuing despite the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon calling on African nations to respect LGBT rights.

UK-based gay rights charity Stonewall are lobbying the British government to put further pressure on Uganda.

‘Gay people in Uganda will once again feel threatened and terrified by this deeply homophobic bill,' said Sam Dick, Stonewall’s head of policy.

He said: 'We have always believed that strong words have to be backed by real action, so we’ll be pushing the government to do everything in its power to prevent what would be a major step backwards for the people of Uganda.’

The bill was originally tabled by MP David Bahati in 2009 as a private members bill. It stalled in 2010 but in October 2011, parliament voted to continue discussing it.

The reintroduced bill must once again pass the legal affairs committee for public hearings and discussion before debate in parliament can proceed, a process expected potentially to take at least several months.