It’s unclear what exactly prompted the response, but the “Kill the Gays” Bill in Uganada that was supposed to be voted on during their Parliment’s Wednesday meeting was abruptly dropped from the schedule. Some are saying it’s because of the international social media outcry that mounted over the past couple days against the bill. This doesn’t mean it’s off the table completely, but it has been tabled for now.
Uganda’s parliament appeared Wednesday to have dropped plans to debate a controversial bill that once proposed the death penalty for some gays and lesbians following an outcry from U.S. leaders and rights groups. The bill was first proposed in 2009 but wasn’t debated until last Friday. It had been scheduled to be debated before the full parliament on Wednesday but was dropped from the schedule.
The future of the bill remained murky as Wednesday was parliament’s last scheduled day of session. It wasn’t clear if the proposed legislation could be carried forward to the next session or if the author would have to offer a new bill, which he has said he will do if needed.
The original bill would mandate a death sentence in some cases, part of the reason it attracted global attention. The bill’s author, David Bahati, has said a new version would not contain the death penalty, but no amended version has been released publicly.
One member of parliament, John Arumadri, said Wednesday that the bill may have been dropped from the agenda because of the worldwide outcry against it.
Online petitions from the groups Avaaz and Allout said they had gathered more than 1.4 million signatures. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called the bill’s progress deeply alarming. A U.S. congressman said if the bill passes he would urge huge cuts in international aid, and the U.S. State Department again voiced its opposition.
“If adopted, a bill further criminalizing homosexuality would constitute a significant step backwards for the protection of human rights in Uganda,” said Hilary Fuller Renner, a spokeswoman for the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs. “Respect for human rights is key to Uganda’s long-term political stability and democratic development, as well as its public health and economic prosperity.”
Gay rights groups say that the harassment of gays has increased in Uganda since the introduction of the bill in October 2009.
As The Guardian reports, this doesn’t mean the bill is off the table completely, but it has been tabled for now. Our voice is being heard!
UPDATE (5-12): The L.A. Times is reporting that the death penalty has officially been dropped form the bill, but homosexual acts would still be punishable with prison time if passed. The Uganda Parliament has scheduled a special session to meet tomorrow, when the bill will likely be voted on.