Ugandan parliament to debate anti-gay bill

Friday November 23 2012



Ugandan lawmakers are to debate a controversial anti-gay bill calling for the death penalty for certain homosexual acts, a parliamentary spokeswoman said Thursday.

The proposed legislation could come up for debate in the next few days after it was included as the third item on Thursday's order paper for parliamentary business, said Helen Kawesa.

"After parliament has disposed of all the business ahead of it on the order paper it will then move on to discussing that bill," Kawesa said.

First introduced in 2009, the bill was initially shelved following international condemnation. US President Barack Obama described its contents as "odious".

Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, but the new bill proposes introducing the death sentence for anyone caught engaging in homosexual acts for a second time, as well as for gay sex where one partner is a minor or has HIV.

It would also criminalise the public promotion of homosexuality -- including discussions by rights groups -- with a sentence of up to seven years in prison for anyone convicted.

The bill proposes to toughen laws "to protect the cherished culture of the people of Uganda...against the attempts of sexual rights activists seeking to impose their values of sexual promiscuity," according to the text.

The lawmaker behind the bill, David Bahati has said that the death penalty clause is likely to be dropped from the final version of the bill.

The current session of Uganda's parliament ends in mid-December.

As news of the bill was announced, a Ugandan court on Thursday postponed the trial of a British theatre producer for staging a play about a gay man without proper authorisation until early next year, his lawyer said.

David Cecil -- who faces up to two years in jail if found guilty -- was arrested in September on two counts, including one of "disobeying lawful orders" and briefly jailed before being granted bail.

"The trial was adjourned until January 2 after the prosecution said that the police are still carrying out investigations," said John Francis Onyango, Cecil's lawyer.

Onyango said that the court had granted Cecil, 34, a request to travel to Britain ahead of the next hearing.

The groundbreaking play "The River and The Mountain" was performed at several venues around Kampala in August despite an injunction by Uganda's government-run media council. It had issued a temporary ban on the play pending review of the script.

The play examines the plight of a man coming out as a homosexual and the motivations of Uganda's vociferous anti-gay lobby.

Written by British playwright Beau Hopkins, it was directed and performed by Ugandans.

Cecil's arrest was condemned by activists inside Uganda and abroad.