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Uganda: Anti-gay bill stalls

Anti-Homosexuality Bill loses steam after local and international opposition.

Uganda anti-gay demonstrator
Members of Christian groups campaigning against homosexuality in Kampala. Ugandan gays are petitioning the government to scrap the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which calls for the death penalty for some gay acts. (James Akena/Reuters)

KAMPALA, Uganda — Uganda's "Anti-Homosexuality Bill," which raised a worldwide uproar over its death penalty for gay sex, has stalled in parliamentary committee and it is unlikely to be passed in the current session, according to gay activists here.

Right from the start, on Oct. 13, 2009 when Ugandan member of parliament David Bahati submitted the bill, the proposed legislation caused national and international outrage.

Almost 10 months later, the bill remains with the Ugandan Parliament's Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, never having made it to a vote.

The bill, if passed, calls for the death penalty in certain circumstances including, having same-sex relations while being HIV positive and engaging in gay sex with a minor.

Intense international lobbying urged a “softening” of the penalties within the bill and the Swedish government warned it would reduce its financial aid to Uganda if the bill were passed.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni distanced himself from the Anti-Homosexual Bill in January 2010. Subsequently, he created a government commission to investigate passage of the anti-gay bill.

In May, the commission advised that the bill be withdrawn from parliament.

During the highest pitch of the national debate about the bill, Ugandan journalist Henry Lubega and his colleague decided to test climate for gays — they posed as gay Ugandan men, while dining at a Kampala restaurant. They reported that they received a mixed reaction.