Uganda to pass anti-gay law as 'Christmas gift'

image captionUgandan gay people often fear living openly

Uganda will pass a new law against homosexuality by the end of 2012 as a "Christmas gift" to its advocates, the speaker of parliament has said.

The AP news agency quoted Rebecca Kadaga as saying that Ugandans were "demanding" the law.

Homosexual acts are already illegal in Uganda, but the bill which is before parliament proposes tougher sentences for people convicted.

Foreign donors have threatened to cut aid if gay rights are not respected.

The bill, tabled by MP David Bahati, proposes jail terms for homosexual acts, including a life sentence in certain circumstances.

It prohibits the "promotion" of gay rights and calls for the punishment of anyone who "funds or sponsors homosexuality" or "abets homosexuality".

But a clause which calls for the death penalty against people found guilty of "aggravated homosexuality" - defined as when one of the participants is a minor, HIV-positive, disabled or a "serial offender" - is to be dropped, Mr Bahati has said.

Diplomatic spat

The bill was strongly condemned last year by Western leaders, including US President Barack Obama who described it as "odious".

International donors have threatened to cut off aid to Uganda if the country does not do more to protect the rights of gay people.

Ms Kadaga said she hoped the bill, first tabled in 2009 and now before a parliamentary committee, would be passed by the end of the year, Reuters news agency reports.

"Ugandans want that law as a Christmas gift. They have asked for it and we'll give them that gift," Ms Kadaga is quoted as saying.

Last month, Ms Kadaga was involved in a row with Canada's Foreign Minister John Baird over gay rights at a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Quebec.

When Mr Bairn warned Uganda not to trample on people's human rights, Ms Kadaga replied: "If homosexuality is a value for the people of Canada they should not seek to force Uganda to embrace it. We are not a colony or a protectorate of Canada."

She received a rapturous welcome from several hundred anti-gay activists, including religious leaders, at Uganda's Entebbe airport when she returned from her trip.

In June, Uganda's Minister for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo said 38 non-governmental organisations which he accused of promoting homosexuality would be banned.

Clare Byarugaba, the co-ordinator of Uganda's Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, said the group would challenge the law in the constitutional court, Reuters reports.

"The international community supports us and we also believe in the constitution of our country which protects the rights and freedoms of everyone," she is quoted as saying.

Correspondents say many Ugandans are deeply conservative, and say homosexuality is against their religious and cultural beliefs.

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