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Uganda MP Bahati defends gay-sex 'death penalty' bill

Anti-gay protest in Kampala
Many Ugandans remain opposed to gay rights

A Ugandan MP accused of calling for a "gay death penalty" says he has been misrepresented and is only trying to criminalise child abusers.

David Bahati says the new offence of "aggravated homosexuality" is a penalty against "defilement" of under-18s.

"There has been a distortion in the media that we are providing death for gays. That is not true," he said.

"When a homosexual defiles a kid of less than 18 years old, we are providing a penalty for this."

There are estimated to be 500,000 gay people in Uganda, out of a population of about 31 million, according to gay rights groups.

Homosexuality is already illegal in the country. But the new Anti-Homosexuality Bill tabled by Mr Bahati proposes a widening of the definition of homosexual acts.

'Sinners'

It would allow the government to fine or imprison anyone found to be promoting homosexuality and to execute those having gay sex with disabled people or under-18s, or when the accused is HIV-positive.

We are not after the sinners, we love them... we are after the sin
David Bahati MP, Uganda

"We are not after the sinners. We love them. We are after the sin," Mr Bahati told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

"Homosexuality it is not a human right. It is not in-born. It is a behaviour that is learned and it can be unlearned."

His bill states that its provisions are intended to "protect the traditional family by prohibiting any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex".

But this statement was attacked by the Reverend Jide Macaulay from Nigeria, a campaigning gay pastor.

'Hatred'

"Homosexuals have never disturbed the traditional heterosexual family. We are part of the human culture," he said.

There is no justification for this bill... it is going to punish so many people
Rev Jide Macaulay, Nigeria

"The problem is a hatred and lack of understanding of homosexual people."

Mr Macaulay was in London on Thursday attending a protest march marking International Human Rights Day.

"If you had a bill that was going to punish child abusers, I would 110% support that bill," he told Focus on Africa.

"But look at the grain of this bill - it's going to punish so many people.

"Clause 14 in particular will punish same-gender loving people, business people, families and the media.

"There is no justification for this bill."



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SEE ALSO
Uganda MP urges death for gay sex
15 Oct 09 |  Africa
Gays welcome Uganda arrest payout
23 Dec 08 |  Africa
Gay arrests in Uganda condemned
05 Jun 08 |  Africa
Uganda rejects a gay rights call
17 Aug 07 |  Africa
Ugandans hold anti-gay sex rally
21 Aug 07 |  Africa
'My life as a gay Ugandan Christian'
27 Oct 03 |  Manchester

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