December 9, 2009 in Nation/World

Uganda debates penalties for gays

Legislation would impose death sentence
Associated Press
 

KAMPALA, Uganda – Proposed legislation would impose the death penalty for some gay Ugandans, and their family and friends could face up to seven years in jail if they fail to report them to authorities.

Gay rights activists say the bill, which has prompted growing international opposition, promotes hatred and could set back efforts to combat HIV/AIDS. They believe the bill is part of a continentwide backlash because Africa’s gay community is becoming more vocal.

“It’s a question of visibility,” said David Cato, who became an activist after he was beaten four times, arrested twice, fired from his teaching job and outed in the press because he is gay. “When we come out and ask for our rights, they pass laws against us.”

The measure was proposed in Uganda following a visit by leaders of U.S. conservative Christian ministries that promote therapy for gays to become heterosexual. However, at least one of those leaders has denounced the bill, as have some other conservative and liberal Christians in the United States.

Gay rights activists say the legislation is likely to pass. But the bill is still being debated and could undergo changes before a vote, which has not yet been set.

The Ugandan legislation in its current form would mandate a death sentence for active homosexuals living with HIV or in cases of same-sex rape. “Serial offenders” also could face capital punishment, but the legislation does not define the term.

Anyone convicted of a homosexual act faces life imprisonment.

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