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Ugandan Antigay Bill Criticized

Seventeen local and international human rights organizations have come out against an "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" that was introduced in Uganda's parliament last Wednesday.

While gay acts are already illegal in Uganda, the bill would create a new crime of "aggravated homosexuality" that would be punishable by death. The provision defines "aggravated homosexuality" as having same-sex relations with disabled people or individuals under 18 years of age, or when the accused is HIV-positive.

"This draft bill is clearly an attempt to divide and weaken civil society by striking at one of its most marginalized groups," said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch in a press release from the coalition of organizations against the legislation. "The government may be starting here, but who will be next?"

The new provisions would also make the "promotion of homosexuality," including publishing information or providing funds for activities, a crime that could result in up to seven years in prison.

Furthermore, gays and straights alike could be jailed for three years if they fail to report the identities of people they know to be LGBT within 24 hours.

John Otekat Emile, an independent member of parliament, believes the bill is likely to pass.

"Members of parliament are overwhelmingly supporting this bill because homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, and we have that clearly in the penal code," Otekat told the BBC.

Organizations who have come out against the bill include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the World AIDS Campaign, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and the Uganda Feminist Forum.

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