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Death Penalty Clause Dropped From Uganda Anti-Gay Bill: Report

Uganda's Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has approved a proposed anti-homosexuality bill after dropping the death penalty clause from its original version, a Ugandan lawmaker was quoted as saying by the BBC on Friday.

Medard Segona reportedly told the BBC on Friday that "substantial amendments" had been made to the bill. Without disclosing further details, the lawmaker stressed that the death penalty clause had been dropped from the bill.

"I can confirm it has been dropped. Some of us who are human rights activists would discourage the death penalty," Segona was quoted as saying in the BBC report.

Incidentally, the original version of the bill tabled in the parliament by MP David Bahati last year proposed awarding the death penalty in cases of "aggravated homosexuality," where one of the participants is a minor, HIV-positive, disabled or a "serial offender."

The measure evoked strong responses from Europe and the United States. Besides, US President Barack Obama denounced the bill as "odious" and threatened to cut US aid to Uganda unless the bill was dropped.

Subsequently, the Ugandan parliament dropped the bill in August 2011. Nevertheless, Bahati re-introduced a watered-down version of the bill in parliament in July, almost a year later, in the face of international condemnation.

Although Bahati's latest version of the bill was devoid of the death penalty clause unlike its predecessor, it recommend raising the punishment of gays up to life in prison. It had also evoked severe international criticism.

Incidentally, homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda under existing laws, and is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Ugandan law also makes any individual failing to report a person he or she knows to be a homosexual liable to prosecution.

The Anti-Homosexual Bill in Uganda was first introduced in 2009. The African nation has a very conservative society where sexual preferences such as homosexuality are frowned upon and even considered anti-Christian. Incidentally, homosexuality is illegal in 37 other countries on the African continent.

However, of late, a few rights organizations have sprung up advocating gay rights in Uganda. In January 2011, a prominent Ugandan gay activist named David Kato was killed in what police later said was armed robbery. His friends and family believe that the gay activist was a victim of hate crime.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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