|Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are increasingly seeking refuge in a climate of growing hostility [AFP]
A bill that would make the death sentence mandatory for gays who are “repeat offenders” has been reintroduced in Uganda’s parliament.
“The anti-homosexuality bill was re-tabled on the floor of the House today and has been referred to parliament’s legal and parliamentary affairs committee for scrutiny,” Helen Kawesa, the parliamentary spokesperson, said on Tuesday.
“The committee is expected to examine it and conduct public hearings and then it will report back to the house for a formal debate on the bill,” she said.
A small but vocal anti-gay movement, led by several MPs and a group of bishops, said it was determined to reintroduce the proposed legislation.
The bill was originally proposed as a private member’s bill in 2009 by David Bahati, a legislator with the ruling National Resistance Movement party, provoking an international outcry.
It brings in the death penalty 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.
It also proposes to criminalise public discussion of homosexuality and would penalise an individual who knowingly rents property to a homosexual.
Barack Obama, the US president, denounced the bill as “odious”, and Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, called on Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to reject it and some international donors threatened to cut aid if it became law.
The bill was shelved last May. The cabinet took it over and, after widespread international condemnation, said in August it had decided to drop the bill because existing laws were sufficient to deal with homosexual crimes.
Homosexuality is taboo in many African nations. It is illegal in 37 countries on the continent, including Uganda, and activists say few Africans are openly gay, fearing imprisonment, violence and loss of jobs.
The bill has given Uganda a reputation as the “world’s homophobia capital”.
Ghana and Tanzania have said they will resist pressure to legalise homosexuality after Britain threatened to cut aid to countries that deny gay rights.
“We’ve always said it’s not over until it’s over. It’s disappointing that this bill has been revived,” Julian Pepe, a Ugandan gay rights activist, said.
“We’re expecting a backlash from the public but we’re not giving up our fight. We’ll engage our partners and talk to MPs and hope sense prevails at the end of the day,” he said.
“If passed, [the Anti-Homosexuality Bill] would represent a grave assault on the human rights of all Ugandans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Michelle Kagari, Deputy Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International, said on Tuesday.
“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,” Kagari said.