KAMPALA (Reuters) - A bill that would make the death sentence mandatory for gays who are “repeat offenders” was reintroduced in Uganda’s parliament on Tuesday, a move likely to draw fresh condemnation from Western aid donors.
The bill was originally proposed as a private member’s bill in 2009 by David Bahati, a legislator with the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, provoking an international outcry.
U.S. President Barack Obama denounced the bill as “odious”, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to reject it and some international donors threatened to cut aid if it became law.
The bill was shelved last May. The cabinet took it over and, after widespread international condemnation, said in August it had decided to drop the bill because existing laws were sufficient to deal with homosexual crimes.
A small but vocal anti-gay movement, led by several MPs and a group of bishops, said it was determined to reintroduce the proposed legislation.
“The anti-homosexuality bill was re-tabled on the floor of the House today and has been referred to parliament’s legal and parliamentary affairs committee for scrutiny,” parliamentary spokeswoman Helen Kawesa told Reuters.
“The committee is expected to examine it and conduct public hearings and then it will report back to the House for a formal debate on the bill,” she said.
Homosexuality is taboo in many African nations. It is illegal in 37 countries on the continent, including Uganda, and activists say few Africans are openly gay, fearing imprisonment, violence and loss of jobs.
The bill has given Uganda a reputation as the “world’s homophobia capital”.
Ghana and Tanzania have said they will resist pressure to legalise homosexuality after Britain threatened to cut aid to countries that deny gay rights.
“We’ve always said it’s not over until it’s over. It’s disappointing that this bill has been revived,” Ugandan gay rights activist Julian Pepe told Reuters.
“We’re expecting a backlash from the public but we’re not giving up our fight. We’ll engage our partners and talk to MPs and hope sense prevails at the end of the day,” he said.