Page last updated at 12:42 GMT, Friday, 8 January 2010

Uganda minister says gay death penalty 'unnecessary'

A gay activist in Uganda wearing a mask (photo: Katherine Elaine Roubos)
Uganda gay-rights activists are campaigning against the bill

A Ugandan government minister has said that a proposed law which includes the death penalty for some homosexual acts is "not necessary".

Aston Kajara, minister of state for investments, added that the government might put pressure on the MP behind the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to withdraw it.

The bill submitted last October sparked international condemnation and prompted threats to cut aid to Uganda.

Homosexual acts are punishable by up to 14 years in jail in Uganda.

MP David Bahati's proposed law would introduce the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality" - involving a minor, if the perpetrator is HIV-positive and for "serial offenders".

The penalties for other homosexual acts would be increased to life in prison.

'Not representative'

With the cabinet still to discuss the bill formally, Information Minister Kabakumba Matsiko stressed that the government had not yet decided whether or not to back it.

But Mr Kajara's comments are believed to be the first public sign that some members of the government may not support the bill.

"The government's position is that the existing provisions in our penal code against homosexuality are strong enough and that this new bill is not necessary," he told AFP news agency.

Earlier, Uganda's Daily Monitor newspaper quoted Mr Kajara as saying: "We may talk to the honourable MP to consider withdrawing it."

However, Ethics Minister James Nsaba Buturo, who has frequently criticised homosexuals, said Mr Kajara was not speaking for the government.

The information minister said that the government could not intervene - even if it wanted to - until after the bill had been debated by parliament.

Sweden has threatened to cut off aid to Uganda if the bill does become law, while other Western countries are believed to have lobbied President Yoweri Museveni to block the bill.

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MSNBC Uganda lawmaker refuses to withdraw anti-gay bill - 39 hrs ago Uganda Official Refuses to Withdraw Death for Gays Bill - 41 hrs ago
AFP via Yahoo! Ugandan minister breaks ranks on anti-gay bill - 43 hrs ago Minister contests anti-gay bill - 45 hrs ago
France24 Ugandan ministers contest anti-gay bill - 46 hrs ago

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