Uganda lawmakers ready new anti-gay bill as `Christmas gift`

Ugandan lawmakers drafting new anti-gay legislation said on Friday they will submit it to Parliament as a "Christmas gift" to the people.

AFP| Updated: Dec 05, 2014, 15:34 PM IST

Kampala: Ugandan lawmakers drafting new anti-gay legislation said on Friday they will submit it to Parliament as a "Christmas gift" to the people.

The move comes nearly a year after Ugandan MPs passed a bill that would have seen gays face up to life in prison, only to see the bill struck down by the constitutional court on a technicality.

MP Latif Ssebagala, who is leading the campaign to drum up support for the bill among fellow lawmakers, said he was confident the bill would be submitted before Parliament breaks for Christmas holidays on December 18.

"It could be introduced at any time because everything has been done, we are just waiting for a slot on the order paper," Ssebagala told a news agency, who said it would be submitted as a private member`s bill.

He has a petition from MPs calling for it to be put before Parliament as soon as possible.

"I`m quite confident it`s going to be an easy move," Ssebagala said. "Virtually 90 percent have appended their signatures, as far as re-tabling is concerned."

Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda under a 1950s penal code which remains in force and prescribes jail for those found guilty of homosexual acts.

Ssebagala told the Daily Monitor newspaper he wanted to pass the bill as a "present" to Ugandans.

"Since we are nearing Christmas and the New Year, we can as well give it as a gift to the people," he said, according to the newspaper.

According to a leaked copy of the new draft bill, MPs have focussed on outlawing the "promotion" of homosexuality -- something that activists said made it far more repressive and wide-reaching, with a proposed sentence of up to seven years in jail.

A draft seen by the Daily Monitor suggests the bill would seek to ban "unnatural sexual practices", which it would define not only as homosexuality, but also sex with transsexual persons, bestiality and anal sex in general.

President Yoweri Museveni has been under pressure for several months from his own party to ensure that anti-gay legislation is passed.

However, Museveni -- who signed off on the original bill -- has signalled he was having second thoughts. He argued the east African nation needed to consider the impact on trade and economic growth.

Critics said Museveni signed the previous law to win domestic support ahead of a presidential election scheduled for 2016, which will be his 30th year in power.

Although very popular domestically, the previous law was branded draconian and "abominable" by rights groups and condemned by several key allies and donors including the European Union and United States.