Amnesty International has condemned the Anti-Homosexuality Bill reintroduced yesterday in Uganda's parliament as a "grave assault on human rights", while an activist in the country called the return of the legislation "scary and traumatizing."
Ugandan MP David Bahati caused an international outcry when he first introduced a bill in 2009 that called for the death penalty for those who engage in repeated homosexual activity, which is already illegal in the country. MPs last year voted to delay the bill until a new session, and the legislation never passed. Yesterday, Bahati was treated to enthusiastic applause by MPs from all parties when he reintroduced his bill, which would impose stiff prison sentences on first-time offenders and the death penalty on anyone convicted a second time.
Michelle Kagari, the Deputy Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International, said it is "alarming and disappointing that Uganda's Parliament will once again consider the Anti-Homosexuality Bill."
"This deplorable bill would not only violate the rights of Ugandans to life, to non-discrimination, to equality before the law, and to privacy, but would sanction hatred, violence and the persecution of a group of people based on whom they love alone," she said.
Julian Pepe Onziema, a transgender activist with Sexual Minorities Uganda, said it was "scary" to see "MPs from the opposition camp and the incumbent camp cheering the bill and calling it 'our bill'. "
Onziema's former colleague, homosexual rights activist David Kato, was bludgeoned to death last January for his high-profile campaign to fight Bahati's first bill.
For his part, Bahati has said that his bill "is a piece of legislation that is needed in this country to protect the traditional family here in Africa, and also protect the future of our children. Every single day of my life now I am still pushing that it passes."
Many western countries threatened to cut off foreign aid to Uganda after Bahati's first bill was introduced, and U.S. President Barack Obama called the legislation "odious". At the time, Bahati accused the West of hypocrisy for seeking to stand in the way of democratic process. "The west is saying that for us to give you money, we want you to accept behaviour that you abhor," he said. "President Obama [is] a man who stood on a platform of change but certainly, this is not the change the world is looking for. It is the evil the world should fight."
Bahati told the Guardian newspaper that the new version of his bill was less draconian than what he introduced previously, with reduced sentences and consideration of what "other people say."
However, Ugandan Parliamentary spokeswoman Helen Kawesa has said that the bill contains all the same provisions as Bahati's earlier legislation.
"It is the same as before," she said.
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