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Fri, 10 Feb 2012 09:10 - Updated Fri, 10 Feb 2012 09:10

Uganda anti-gay bill 'not backed by government'


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Kampala - Uganda's government has defended its right to debate an anti-gay bill but says the draft legislation does not have official backing.

MP David Bahati this week retabled his bill after it was shelved following an international outcry.

The bill calls for life in prison for homosexual offences but Mr Bahati says the death penalty will be dropped.

The government urged foreign leaders to realise that cultural attitudes in Africa were "very different".

Homosexual acts are already illegal in Uganda - a largely conservative society, where many condemn homosexuality.

The proposed legislation was first introduced in 2009 but never debated.

The original bill said those found guilty of "aggravated homosexuality" - defined as when one of the participants is a minor, HIV-positive, disabled or a "serial offender" - would face the death penalty.

It was condemned by Western leaders, including US President Barack Obama who described it as "odious".

Both the US and UK have recently urged developing countries to respect gay rights or risk losing aid.

"Contrary to reports, the bill before parliament even if it were to pass, would not sanction the death penalty for homosexual behaviour in Uganda," a government statement released by the Uganda Media Centre (UMC) said.

Mr Bahati told the BBC that for procedural reasons, the original text had been resubmitted but that it had been agreed that the section calling for the death penalty would be removed when it was discussed by a committee of MPs.

The UMC said the bill proposed by Mr Bahati, who leads the ruling party's caucus in parliament, did not enjoy the support of the prime minister or cabinet.