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11 May 2011

Uganda threatens gay rights

A Ugandan parliament committee completes its second day of hearings on a anti-gay bill that attracted international criticism for its harsh penalties.

A Ugandan parliament committee has held a second day of hearings on a contentious anti-gay bill that attracted international criticism for its harsh penalties.

David Bahati, the bill's author said that the death penalty provision in the bill was "something we have moved away from". The bill is now undergoing debate and negotiations. Bahati's original bill would mandate a death sentence for active homosexuals living with HIV or in cases of same-sex rape. "Serial offenders" also would face capital punishment and anyone convicted of a homosexual act would face life imprisonment.

However, retired Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo said the bill will not stop homosexuality, but would instead turn Uganda into a police state and could increase the spread of HIV/Aids because gay Ugandans would fear seeking treatment.

The bill was initially introduced in 2009 calling for the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality", in cases of rape of a minor by a person of the same sex, or where one partner carries the virus that can cause Aids. It also proposes to criminalise public discussion of homosexuality and would penalise any individual who rents property to a homosexual. 

Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda and punishable by life imprisonment.

Graeme Reid of the Human Rights Watch said: "Not only would the bill institutionalise discrimination against those who are, or who are thought to be, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, if this bill is passed, it could be interpreted as an official incitement to commit violence against LGBT people."

Gay activists around the world have since circulated petitions to stop the Bill from being passed by lawmakers.

Meanwhile tensions are running high in South Africa following the rape of a transgender boy, just after the announcement of the hate crimes task team that is meant to tackle these crimes.

 
 
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