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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 26, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 34
Uganda's Cabinet drops 'Kill the Gays' bill
Section One
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Uganda's Cabinet drops 'Kill the Gays' bill

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Uganda's Cabinet decided on August 17 to drop the country's notorious 'Kill the Gays' bill, but the measure's sponsor, David Bahati, says it will go forward anyway.

According to the Daily Monitor, Uganda's largest independent newspaper, the Ugandan Cabinet decided to drop the proposed legislation on the advice of its attorney, Adolf Mwesige.

Mwesige advised the government to enforce anti-Gay laws already on the books rather than passing new legislation, the newspaper said.

'We agreed that government should search the law archives and get some of the laws, [and] enforce them rather than having another new piece of legislation,' an inside source told the Daily Monitor.

'He [Mwesige] said the bill is overtaken by events and that donors and other sections of the public were not comfortable.'

Bahati told reporters that since the bill has already been introduced in Parliament, it is 'now property of parliament and the executive should stop playing 'hide-and-seek games.'

'The future of this country's children will be determined by the peoples' representatives in Parliament,' Bahati told reporters on August 20.

Bahati's bill would have made same-sex relations punishable by life in prison, or by death for 'repeat offenders.' Existing Ugandan law - left over from the British colonial era - provides for up to 14 years in prison for sex 'against the order of nature,' or for 'gross indecency.'

According to blogger Warren Throckmorton, Parliament spokesperson Helen Kawesa has confirmed that the 'bill is in the parliament now. It's the parliament's property.'

'If the Cabinet has issues with it, they will be brought in to the floor of the House,' Kawesa reportedly added.

In Uganda's parliament the national budget is currently on the agenda and is scheduled for a vote by August 31.

After the budget vote, other business can be considered, including Bahati's 'Kill the Gays' bill.

According to Kawesa, there is no action scheduled for the measure, but she said the bill could come up at any time after the budget has been passed.

Earlier reports of the Cabinet's decision indicated that some officials had recommended dismantling the bill and passing sections of it as amendments to other bills in the hopes of escaping worldwide attention.

'I have also heard today from sources I trust that ministers are quietly appealing to MPs to pass the bill via letters and emails,' Throckmorton reports. 'The relevance of this is that the movement to get the bill considered is not as public as during the previous parliament.'

When Bahati first introduced his 'Kill the Gays' bill in October 2009, it met with almost universal condemnation. The U.S. State Department, the British Foreign Office, and the European Union all condemned the measure and threatened to suspend aid to Uganda if it passed.

In 2010, a Cabinet committee chaired by government attorney Mwesige called for the bill to be dropped, and made recommendations to enforce existing law.

Those recommendations were later detailed in a report to the Ugandan parliament. Many observers believed at the time that the bill had been shelved.

Other recommendations included passing the legislation without the death penalty provision.

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