Human rights groups blast new Ugandan anti-gay bill

Human rights groups blast new Ugandan anti-gay bill

The bill proposes stricter penalties for homosexual acts, already illegal in the East African nation, and the death penalty for anyone who engages in same-sex relations with children under 18 and disabled people or who is HIV-positive while having gay sex.

"This bill is a blow to the progress of democracy in Uganda," David Kato of Sexual Minorities Uganda said in a statement on Thursday. "Its spirit is profoundly undemocratic and un-African."

Gays are already subject to persecution and arbitrary arrest in Uganda. Rights groups said people suspected of being gay have been assaulted, received death threats and face discrimination.

The bill also proposes a seven-year jail sentence for the "promotion of homosexuality". The joint statement by the rights groups, which include New York-based Human Rights Watch, said the bill would "criminalise the legitimate work of national and international activists and organisations working for the defence and promotion of human rights in Uganda."

It would also hamper efforts to fight HIV/AIDS, the groups said. "Discrimination and punitive laws like this aimed at marginalised groups and at those often among the most affected by HIV drives people underground and does nothing to help slow down the AIDS epidemic," said Daniel Molokele, Africa programme officer at the World AIDS Campaign.