(EDITOR'S NOTE: To read a new interview with two well-known LGBT activists on the ground in Uganda, click HERE.)
KAMPALA, Uganda – MPs have dropped the death penalty from Uganda’s draconian “Kill The Gays” bill, the BBC is reporting today.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill authored by the homophobic MP David Bahati -- and supported by anti-gay Religious Right leaders in the U.S. -- is being debated by a committee of MPs and the panel has been tweaking the language in the bill, MP Medard Segona told the BBC.
Segona said “substantial amendments” have been made to the bill, but he would not elaborate further.
Rebecca Kadaga, Speaker of Parliament, has vowed to pass the “Kill The Gays” bill this year as a “Christmas gift” to the nation.
The proposed bill could be sent to the full Parliament at any time. It has widespread support in Uganda, backed by most of the country’s religious leaders, including the anti-gay Anglicans and Catholics.
Uganda is one of 76 countries around the world where it is a crime to be gay. The proposed law is much harsher, and would impose longer sentences on people who are convicted of being LGBT or engaging in same-sex relationships.
The proposed law had included the death penalty for those convicted of aggravated homosexuality, defined as gay acts committed by parents or authority figures, HIV-positive people, pedophiles and repeat offenders. Segona did not say what the panel recommended to replace the death penalty, but it is expected that the sentence would be a lengthy term, possibly even life in prison.
Also, the proposed law had included life imprisonment for those convicted of the offense of homosexuality, defined as same-sex sexual acts or being involved in a same-sex relationship. Anyone who did not report a gay person to authorities could be convicted under the law, turning the nation into a bunch of snoops, gossips and spies.
Since 2009, Uganda has tried to pass the “Kill The Gays” bill but international condemnation and pressure has helped derail those efforts. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have condemned the efforts, along with the UK, the European Union and most western nations.
Some western nations, including the UK, Ireland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, have threatened to withdraw foreign aid to Uganda. The U.S. apparently is not planning to do so.
LGBT activists and allies around the world are again mobilizing against the proposed law.
Avaaz.org also is sponsoring a petition to fight the proposed law.
The Human Rights Campaign is calling on American faith leaders to reach out to their influential friends and colleagues in Uganda to urge them to condemn the bill and work to halt consideration.
"American faith leaders know that calling for the death penalty - or even calling for imprisonment of - an entire community is not in line with Christian values," said Chad Griffin, HRC president. "American Christian faith leaders with ties to Uganda, like Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes, must reach out to their influential Ugandan friends to ensure that the human rights of Ugandans are not put up to a vote."
American Christian faith leaders have been active in Uganda for decades and have significant ties to Ugandan political leaders and faith leaders. Such influential American faith leaders, including Warren, Jakes, Joel Osteen and voices from the Trinity Broadcasting Network, have a moral obligation to urge their Ugandan friends and allies to condemn the bill, HRC said.
Many of these American faith leaders have shown a commitment to fighting the HIV/AIDs epidemic in Uganda and know passage of this bill would curtail these efforts. Public statements and private conversations by these American faith leaders, if they are done immediately, could save the lives of thousands of Ugandans, HRC said.