Uganda lawmaker refuses to withdraw anti-gay bill
The Ugandan lawmaker who proposed a bill that would give some gays the death penalty said Friday he will refuse any request to withdraw the legislation after a minister said the government would ask him to.
Lawmaker David Bahati said he felt the bill is necessary in the conservative East African country. On Thursday, Minister of State for Investment Aston Kajara said the government would ask Bahati to scrap the bill because they fear backlash from foreign investors. The bill, which Bahati proposed in September, has provoked criticism from gay-rights groups and protests in London, New York and Washington.
"I stand by the bill," Bahati said. "I will not withdraw it. We have our children in schools to protect against being recruited into (homosexuality). The process of legislating a law to protect our children against homosexuality and defending our family values must go on."
The proposed legislation would toughen Uganda’s already strict laws against homosexuality, which are bolstered by Uganda’s conservative society.
The draft of the new bill says anyone convicted of a homosexual act - which includes touching someone of the same sex with the intent of committing a homosexual act - could face life imprisonment. The death sentence could apply to sexually active gays living with HIV or in cases of same-sex rape. The new law also expands its scope to include Ugandans living abroad, who can be extradited and punished.
The bill will appear before parliament in late February or early March.
Kajara said government officials worried the bill would scare off investors.
"Ever since the bill was tabled, there have been a lot of outcries not only here but from all over the world," he said. "There has been negative publicity on Uganda which is not good for investment. As government, we shall talk to the private member who brought it to parliament and request him to withdraw it."
President Yoweri Museveni has told colleagues he believes the bill is too harsh and has encouraged his ruling National Resistance Movement Party to overturn the death sentence provision. Several lawmakers have agreed and say they will push to remove the statute.
The measure was proposed in Uganda following a visit by leaders of U.S. conservative Christian ministries that promote therapy for gays to become heterosexual. However, at least one of those leaders has denounced the bill, as have some other conservative and liberal Christians in the United States.
On the African continent, South Africa is the only country that allows gay marriage. However, some South African groups have rejected homosexuality as "un-African" and gangs carry out so-called "corrective" rapes on lesbians. A 19-year-old lesbian athlete was gang-raped, tortured and murdered in 2008.
The Catholic church in Uganda has said it supports the bill but not the death penalty provision. But a group of non-traditional churches has accused Museveni of siding with gays and maintains that the Bible supports killing gays. Anglican Archbishop of York John Sentamu, who is one of the global fellowship’s most senior priests, has said he condemns the proposed law in his native country.