Uganda: Draft Bill Drops Death Penalty and Life in Jail for Gays


Uganda will drop the death penalty and life imprisonment for gays in a refined version of an anti- gay bill expected to be ready for presentation to Parliament in two weeks, James Nsaba Buturo, the minister of ethics and integrity, said. The draft bill, which is under consideration by a parliamentary committee, will drop the two punishments to attract the support of religious leaders who are opposed to these penalties, Buturo said today in a phone interview from the capital, Kampala.

Ugandan lawmaker David Bahati presented a private member’s bill on Oct. 14 which sought the death penalty and life imprisonment for gay people in the country. The Ugandan government supports the bill because homosexuality and lesbianism are “repugnant to the Ugandan culture,” Buturo said. Still, it favors a more refined set of punishments, he said.

In addition to formulating punishments for the gay people, the bill will also promote counseling to help “attract errant people to acceptable sexual orientation,” said Buturo.

The proposed legislation has attracted criticism from gay rights activists, both locally and internationally, who argue that the law would promote discrimination and hatred toward the gay community.

By Fred Ojambo (To contact the reporter on this story: Fred Ojambo in Kampala via the Johannesburg bureau at

Letter to Commonwealth Secretary General
Date: 26th Nov 2009

In advance of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting this weekend, the Equal Rights Trust (ERT) has called on the Heads of Government to condemn an Anti-Homosexuality Bill recently introduced in the Parliament of Uganda and to take urgent action to repeal existing homophobic laws across the Commonwealth.

Homosexual conduct is currently illegal in 43 of the 53 Commonwealth nations, despite the commitment in the 1971 Commonwealth Declaration of Principles to “foster human equality and dignity everywhere”.

In a letter to the Commonwealth General Secretary Kamalesh Sharma, ERT urges Heads of Government to:
·    Establish a Ministerial Action Group to address the issue of laws criminalising homosexual conduct and advise member states of the Commonwealth on the legal implications of retaining such laws.
·    Condemn the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which was tabled in the Parliament of Uganda in the strongest terms and consider sanctions which would follow from adoption of the Bill.
·    Include a political commitment to tackling homophobic laws in the final communiqué of its meeting.

ERT’s letter argues that current international law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, relying on interpretation by UN human rights bodies and broadly recognized legal principles to support its case. In recent years, the UN Human Rights Committee, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Right and the Committee on the Rights of the Child have all concluded that the right to non-discrimination includes protection on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Speaking about the ERT letter to the Commonwealth General Secretary, ERT Executive Director Dimitrina Petrova said:

“The 1971 Commonwealth Declaration of Principles commits members to ‘foster human equality and dignity everywhere’, yet 43 Commonwealth countries retain laws which deny equality to lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transsexual people.

“In Uganda, the drafters of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill believe the current homophobic law is not enough and that there must be ‘comprehensive provision catering for anti-homosexuality’.

“Laws that criminalise homosexual conduct or laws that may be applied to achieve such an effect violate the spirit of the Commonwealth and undermine the commitments made by Commonwealth nations.

“Heads of Government should condemn the Ugandan Bill and make a commitment this weekend to repeal homophobic laws in the Commonwealth.”

To read the ERT statement, click here.