Lawmakers in Uganda have scrapped a proposal to make homosexuality punishable by death.
A parliamentary committee dropped the death penalty clause from the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill but otherwise endorsed the legislation, MP Medard Segona told the BBC today.
The provision was the most extreme of several increased punishments for homosexuality, and led to the bill being nicknamed the "kill the gays" bill.
Uganda's legal and parliamentary committee has made "substantial amendments" to the draft legislation, said Segona, adding that the death penalty provision was opposed by "some of us who are human rights activists."
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Originally, the bill would have made "aggravated homosexuality" – which it defines as repeated homosexual acts, gay sex with a minor or someone with disabilities, or when one partner has HIV – a capital offense.
The proposal, first submitted in April 2009, provoked international outcry. The Ugandan government subsequently indicated that the death penalty would be revised to life imprisonment to allow gays to be "rehabilitated."
"Killing them might not be helpful," Ethics and Integrity Minister Nsaba Buturo told Reuters in December of that year, though the decision had not been officially confirmed until now.
The bill also calls for gay sex between consenting adults to be punishable by a life sentence, "promotion" of homosexuality – which could be interpreted to mean any discussion of gay rights – to be a criminal offense, and anyone failing to report a homosexual act to the authorities to face arrest themselves.
The speaker of parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, has vowed to pass the bill into law by the end of this year – as a "Christmas gift" to the conservative Christians who support it.
The next step is a vote in parliament, where the bill is said to have broad support. Agence France Presse reported yesterday that a debate on it had been added to the order of parliamentary business, which means that the bill could go before lawmakers "in the next few days."
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