KAMPALA, Uganda (AP)—A provision that would impose the death penalty for some gays is likely to be removed from the proposed legislation following opposition from Uganda’s president, the country’s ethics minister said.
President Yoweri Museveni has told colleagues he believes the bill is too harsh and has encouraged his ruling National Resistance Movement Party to overturn the death sentence provision, which would apply to sexually active gays living with HIV or in cases of same-sex rape. The proposed bill, though, says anyone convicted of a homosexual act would face life imprisonment and it is unclear whether Museveni supports that provision or not.
Gay rights activists say the bill promotes hatred and could set back efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in the conservative East African country. Protests already have been held in London, New York and Washington.
‘’The death penalty is likely to be removed,’’ said James Nsaba Buturo, Uganda’s minister of state for ethics and integrity. ‘’The president doesn’t believe in killing gays. I also don’t believe in it. I think gays can be counseled and they stop the bad habit.’’
Ruling party spokeswoman Mary Karoro Okurut said she also agrees with the president that some punishments in the bill should be dropped. But she said she will still push for a modified version of the bill when it comes to parliament in late February or early March. ‘’Although the president is against some parts of the bill, the bill has to stay,’’ she said. ‘’(Homosexuality) is not allowed in African culture. We have to protect the children in schools who are being recruited into homosexual activities.’’
Frank Mugisha, leader of Sex Minorities Uganda, said the gay-rights group will campaign for and support President Yoweri Museveni in the 2011 polls because of his opposition to the bill’s harsher provisions. ‘’If one scratches your back you also scratch his back,’’ Mugisha said. ‘’Museveni’s action shows that he is a true democrat. As a head of state he is doing the right thing of protecting all interests of its citizens including those of the minorities.’’