Uganda anti-gay bill draws church, donor battle lines

Thu Jun 28, 2012 10:47am EDT
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By Jocelyn Edwards

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Peter, 23, used to enjoy hitting Kampala's bars with his boyfriend until a draft bill dubbed "kill the gays" forced him into hiding.

"I'm so, so afraid. I just live indoors," he says, sitting in the semi-darkness of the cramped two-room dwelling where he has lived since his family and friends turned on him after the bill was introduced in 2009.

In this conservative east African country, the bill that initially proposed hanging gays has pitted veteran President Yoweri Museveni's government against two influential but opposing forces: the evangelical church and western donors.

Existing legislation already outlaws gay sex. The new legislation introduced by David Bahati, a backbench lawmaker in Museveni's ruling National Resistance Movement party, would go much further.

It would prohibit the "promotion" of gay rights and punish anyone who "funds or sponsors homosexuality" or "abets homosexuality".

Denounced as "odious" by U.S. President Barack Obama, the first draft, which threatened the death sentence for what it called "aggravated homosexuality", languished in parliament for two years, never making it to the chamber's debating floor.

Bahati re-introduced a mildly watered-down second draft in February and is confident of a "yes" vote even though the bill's progress has stalled at committee level.

The death sentence clause is gone, as is the demand Ugandans report gays to the authorities, he told Reuters.   Continued...