A Ugandan lawmaker behind a proposed draconian anti-gay bill that sparked an international outcry said Friday he wanted to drop clauses that would see the death penalty introduced for certain homosexual acts.
“There will be no death penalty at all… that will go,” David Bahati, the legislator who formulated the bill, told AFP.
Bahati said he wanted to scrap proposals to punish “aggravated homosexuality,” which includes someone deemed to be a “serial offender” with the death sentence.
The MP reintroduced the controversial bill on Tuesday after lawmakers ran out of time to debate the measure last year and voted to pass it on to the new session of parliament.
Parliament officials said Thursday that the bill — which US President Barack Obama has described as “odious” — had been reintroduced in its original format, which included the death penalty clause.
However Bahati said the proposed legislation was already in the process of being changed, following recommendations made during the last parliament.
“The death penalty is not part of the process that we are talking about,” Bahati said, adding he was also dropping proposals to jail family members if they failed to report gay relatives to the authorities.
Proposals to jail people who said they were married to someone of the same sex would also be scrapped, he said.
“Those are not part of it,” Bahati said.
The bill, as it was originally proposed, would have introduced the death sentence for anyone caught engaging in homosexual acts for the second time, as well as for gay sex where one partner is a minor or has HIV.
Bahati said the bill was now focused on stopping the promotion of gay rights, and retains a proposal to criminalise public discussion of homosexuality with a heavy prison sentence.
Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, but the proposed bill has previously attracted heavy criticism for the draconian penalties it proposed.
The bill has been sent to the parliament’s legal affair committee, which must then report back to parliament within 45 days.
“I think this time around we will cover good ground on the bill,” Bahati said, adding he was hopeful the legislation will be debated.
The bill enjoys widespread backing from Ugandan lawmakers but the government on Wednesday said that it did not support the proposed legislation, although it defended parliament’s right to discuss it.
“It does not form part of the government’s legislative programme and it does not enjoy the support of the prime minister or the cabinet,” the government said in the statement.
“However, as Uganda is a constitutional democracy, it is appropriate that if a private member’s bill is presented to parliament it be debated.”
The reintroduction of the bill sparked strong criticism from rights groups. Amnesty International urged MPs to reject it.
“If passed, it would represent a grave assault on the human rights of all Ugandans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Michelle Kagari, the rights group’s Africa programme director said this week.