A committee in the Uganda Parliament has advanced a proposed anti-homosexuality bill, but not before dropping a controversial death penalty clause from its original version that had earned the measure the nickname the “Kill the Gays” bill.
Medard Segona, a member of Uganda’s Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs reportedly told the BBC on Friday that “substantial amendments” had been made to the bill.
Without disclosing additional details, Segona lawmaker stressed that the death penalty clause had been dropped from the bill.
In the bill’s original form, first tabled by MP David Bahati in 2009, those convicted of “aggravated homosexuality” — defined as when one of the participants is a minor, HIV-positive, disabled or a “serial offender” — could face the death penalty.
Such offenses would now result in life imprisonment.
While current laws in Uganda already outlaw gay sex, the proposed bill increases the existing penalties, and also prohibits any “promotion” of gay rights and calls for the punishment of anyone who “funds or sponsors homosexuality” or “abets homosexuality.”
The next step is for parliament to debate the bill. Segona said he thought this would happen before the Christmas break but said he could not be more precise.
Last week, Rebecca Kadaga, Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament, promised that the bill will pass by the end of the year, calling it a “Christmas gift” to the nation.
Amnesty International said it was “extremely concerned” about the bill and called on the Ugandan parliament not to pass it.
“The bill would have lasting, harmful effects on Ugandans who are thought to breach its far-reaching provisions and it would significantly hamper the work of human rights defenders and public health professionals,” the rights group said.
Homosexuality is illegal in 37 countries on the African continent, including Uganda, and activists say few Africans are openly gay, fearing imprisonment, violence and loss of jobs.