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Uganda to drop death penalty from bill criminalizing homosexuality

Ugandan MP David Bahati announced on Friday that clauses mandating the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality" would be dropped from the controversial bill that would criminalize homosexuality. The bill was reintroduced [JURIST report] to the Parliament of Uganda [official website] on Tuesday in its original form, but Bahati stated that there were plans to remove certain provisions. Bahati said in 2010 that the purpose of the bill was to prevent foreigners from corrupting Ugandan children [YouTube video] by giving them money and convincing them to become homosexuals. Bahati stated that provisions imposing jail time for individuals married to someone of the same sex would also be removed form the bill [AFP report]. The original bill imposed the death penalty on homosexual "repeat offenders" and gay sex where one of the offenders is a minor or has HIV.

Uganda faces an ongoing struggle with anti-gay sentiment in the country. In November the Ugandan High Court [official website] sentenced a man to 30 years in prison [JURIST report] for beating to death prominent gay rights activist David Kato. In January 2011 the Ugandan High Court issued a permanent injunction [JURIST report] and awarded damages to three plaintiffs who were among 100 people alleged to be homosexuals by the Ugandan tabloid newspaper, The Rolling Stone. In January 2010 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] criticized the original anti-gay legislation [JURIST report], saying that it could harm Uganda's reputation internationally. In February 2010, US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official website] publicly denounced the proposed legislation [JURIST report]. Uganda currently criminalizes homosexual behavior [BBC report] with up to 14 years in prison.

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