Ugandan lawmaker refuses to drop anti-gay measure

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By Associated Press
Saturday, January 9, 2010

KAMPALA, UGANDA -- A Ugandan lawmaker refused Friday to withdraw proposed legislation that would impose the death penalty for some gay men and lesbians despite international condemnation and presidential opposition to a measure that some critics said could scare off foreign investors.

Lawmaker David Bahati said he will not heed a call late Thursday from the government to drop the proposed bill, which has provoked criticism from gay rights groups and protests in London, New York and Washington.

"We have our children in schools to protect against being recruited into" homosexuality, Bahati said. "The process of legislating a law to protect our children against homosexuality and defending our family values must go on." The country's parliament is expected to debate the measure in late February or early March.

Although President Yoweri Museveni has told colleagues that he believes the bill is too harsh and has encouraged his ruling National Resistance Movement Party to overturn the death sentence provision, Information Minister Kabakumba Matsiko said the parliament will act independently.

Several lawmakers and officials from the ruling party said this week that they will push to remove the death penalty statute. They have proposed instead that gays receive counseling to convert them to heterosexuality.

Lawmakers outlawed gay marriage in 2005. The proposed legislation is being promoted as an update to Uganda's statutes against homosexuality, which date from the 1950s and do not address homosexuality by name, only by what the law terms as "unnatural offenses" and "gross indecency." The draft bill says anyone convicted of a homosexual act could face life imprisonment.

Current legislation imposes seven years in prison. Under the new law, the death sentence could apply to sexually active gays living with HIV or in cases of same-sex rape. The law would also include Ugandans living abroad, who could be extradited and punished.

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