Uganda "anti-gay" bill not on parliament agenda

KAMPALA Wed May 11, 2011 7:21pm BST

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KAMPALA (Reuters) - A Uganda bill that at draft stage had proposed the death penalty for homosexuals who are "repeat offenders" disappeared from the parliament's agenda on Wednesday after severe pressure from foreign activists.

Legislators said it was now unlikely the bill would be debated during this parliamentary session but that it was technically possible it could be re-introduced at some point in the future.

"There were to be hearings on it today but, when we came to the parliament, it was not on the day's agenda," a legislator, who did not want to be named for fear of association with the bill, told Reuters.

The bill was previously debated on Friday.

Homosexuality is taboo in many African nations. It is illegal in some 37 countries on the continent, including Uganda, and activists say few Africans are openly gay, fearing imprisonment, violence and loss of jobs.

Museveni, in power for 25 years, will be sworn in on Thursday after an overwhelming but disputed February election win.

A new parliament will then take over next week.

Uganda's anti-gay movement won international notoriety after the bill was tabled in 2009.

U.S. President Barack Obama denounced it as "odious" and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to express her strong concerns about the bill.

"We are very worried about the bill, it would be a dark chapter for Uganda," gay rights activist Bishop Christopher Seneno said in a statement.

"We hope that the new parliamentarians will think very differently to this current crop of MPs who prey on fear. We really hope this bill doesn't go any further."

Online campaign group, Avaaz, collected 1.5 million signatures opposing the bill from around the world. Despite the fact that it made international headlines, it has not been considered as big an issue in Uganda, where homosexuality is still widely unpopular.

(Editing by James Macharia and Elizabeth Fullerton)

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