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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 28 - Volume 42 Issue 48
Merry Christmas, Uganda!
Section One
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Merry Christmas, Uganda!

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Anti-Gay legislation will be revived by Uganda's parliament before the New Year, a key lawmaker told Reuters news service on November 21.

A bill that would have mandated life in prison for Gays was passed by Uganda's parliament almost a year ago, but the country's constitutional court overturned it in August. Since then a parliamentary committee has been meeting to craft a new version that will pass constitutional muster.

Abdu Latif Ssebagala, a member of the committee, said it had finished the bill and was ready to present it to parliament for debate.

'The draft is ready and we have strengthened the law, especially in areas of promotion and luring children. Next week we expect to meet the speaker to fix a date for the re-tabling to parliament,' he told Reuters.

Ssebagala said the committee wanted it passed within weeks so that Ugandans 'can celebrate it as a Christmas gift.'

Under intense international pressure, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said in August that he wanted the law amended to remove penalties for consenting adults. Ssebagala said the new version still punished Gay sex among consenting adults, however.

'This bill is inconsistent with fundamental freedoms and human rights ... accepting it would be a display of weakness rather than leadership,' said Asia Russell, Uganda-based director of international policy at Health GAP, an HIV advocacy group.

Most Western countries - on whom Uganda relies for economic aid - agree, and have urged Museveni not to sign any law that further penalizes his country's LGBT community.

Analysts say Museveni is walking a political tightrope, trying to appease his conservative domestic constituency while not alienating foreign donors who finance about 20% of Uganda's budget.

Like most of sub-Saharan Africa, Ugandan society is highly religious and sexually conservative. Influential evangelical pastors from the United States have also intervened in the country's politics, urging Ugandan legislators to reintroduce the law since it was quashed.

Presidential spokesman Tamale Mirundi said Museveni 'is a democrat' and could not dictate to parliament what to do.

'We'll only know his views when the new law is passed and is sent to him for signing,' he said.

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