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Ugandan government, faced with foreign aid cuts, drops death penalty for homosexuality (w/update)

Isn’t that special — only life imprisonment is now on the table.

From the BBC, welcome news about the heinous government-sanctioned witch hunt on gays in Uganda. The original legislation, offered up by Speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga as a “Christmas gift”, called for the death penalty for homosexuality as well as prohibited the “promotion” of gay rights (whatever that is) and punishes any efforts that “funds or sponsors homosexuality” or “abets” it.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Uganda – this bill increases the penalties. Foreign donors have threatened to cut aid if gay rights are not respected. The bill, tabled by MP David Bahati, proposes longer jail terms for homosexual acts, including a life sentence in certain circumstances.

In its original form, those convicted of “aggravated homosexuality” – defined as when one of the participants is a minor, HIV-positive, disabled or a “serial offender” – faced the death penalty. Mr Bahati has previously said that the death penalty provision would be dropped but this has not been confirmed until now.

Will Kohler at Back2Stonewall:

The “Kill Gays Bill” was first introduced in 2009 by MP David Bahati shortly after a workshop took place in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, that featured three American radical evangelical Christian extremist: Scott Lively,  Caleb Lee Brundidge,  and Don Schmierer, a board member of Exodus International, an organisation devoted to promoting “freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ”. The theme of the conference, according to The New York Times, was the “gay agenda”: “how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how ‘the gay movement is an evil institution’ whose goal is ‘to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity’ ”

UPDATE: Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin says, “Don’t Believe It Until You See It: News Reports Claim Uganda Drops Death Penalty From Anti-Gay Bill“:

We’ve seen this before. News reports are emerging that the Ugandan Parliament’s Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee has “dropped” the death penalty from the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, exchanging it for life imprisonment for those charged with “aggravated homosexuality” — which could be just about anyone, given the overly-broad wording of the bill’s clauses. What’s distressing is that mainstream and LGBT journalists are picking it up despite Ugandan politicians stressing that they can’t release the committee’s draft recommendations to the public, so all we have are Ugandan politicians’ word for it. The BBC has bungled the story several times before; you’d think they’d be more cautious. I can’t tell you how many times there have been pronouncements that the death penalty was dropped only to find out that it was still in the bill.

And Jim then documents the numerous times the media has bungled it.

UPDATE 2: Chris Geidner at Buzzfeed reports that the Obama administration, which has condemned Uganda’s anti-gay legislation in the past, has no comment on the current actions.

A State Department spokesperson said Friday that there was no statement at this time on the newest iteration of the legislation but that one could come in the coming week. The spokesperson did, however, reference the administration’s earlier condemnation of the legislation.

In the past, Obama has spoken out against the bill, telling those assembled at the National Prayer Breakfast in February 2010, “We may disagree about gay marriage, but surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are — whether it’s here in the United States or, as [Secretary of State] Hillary [Clinton] mentioned, more extremely in odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda.”


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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding