Debate rages in Uganda about a controversial bill before parliament that would make homosexuality punishable by death. A Ugandan member of parliament (MP) last month proposed that lawmakers should create a new crime of "aggravated homosexuality", which would be punishable by death.
Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, of the ruling party, tabled the private member's bill in parliament.
According to his bill, those convicted of having gay sex with disabled people and those under the 18 would face the death penalty.
The bill, titled the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009, would give the same punishment to anyone infected with HIV who has sex with someone of the same gender.
It also imposes life imprisonment on those who have homosexual sex. Although this is already the case in Uganda, the new law widens the definition of the offence.
Other offences include promoting homosexuality, aiding and abetting homosexuality and keeping a house "for purposes of homosexuality".
“At the moment the bill is before the committee of parliament,” Bahati told VOA, “we are inviting stakeholders to bring in their input so that we can improve the bill.”
Bahati said his bill would protect children, youths and the "traditional family".
He said that although Uganda has a law that prohibits homosexuality the law does not go far enough. “The penal code outlaws unnatural sex behavior but it does not clearly outlaw homosexuality which has become a very big problem here in Uganda.”
Bahati said there is a lot of recruitment [of gay people] in single [sex] school and a lot of promotion of homosexuality by non-governmental organizations including UNICEF (United Nations Children Fund). This is in reference to the work done by national and international human rights organizations to advocate on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.
He dismissed human rights concerns by those opposed to this bill. “We don’t recognize homosexuality as a human right here in Uganda,” he said, he added “we know that some countries recognize it as a human right but this is Uganda and we shall pass a law that sums up the spirit and aspirations of Uganda but also respect those countries that think homosexuality is a right.”
Bahati clarified that the bill does not provide for a death penalty for two adults who are homosexuals but for those for who have gay sex with those under the age of 18 years.
He castigated pro-gay groups especially in the USA and Europe for “engaging in a game of manipulation, deception, and control.”
“We are going to focus on protecting children and the family in Uganda,” he added.
Admitting that there a lot of international pressure to drop this controversial bill, Mr. Bahati said “there is no amount of pressure or intimidation that will stop this bill.”
He described Pastor Rick Warren’s (an American Evangelical Christian minister and founder of the Saddleback mega-Church in California, USA) condemnation of the bill as unfortunate. “It’s unfortunate that a man who has inspired millions of people around the world for a long time would be blackmailed to disappoint them. It’s a pity that he has opted to please the world instead of God.”
Senator Russ Feingold, the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, has also condemned this bill. In a statement Friday, Senator Feingold said if enacted, “this inhumane bill would sanction new levels of violence against people in Uganda based solely on their gender or sexual orientation.” He warned that “its passage would hurt the close working relationship between our two countries, especially in the fight against HIV/AIDS