Posted Friday, February 5 2010 at 00:41
Uganda has faced intense pressure from Western governments and human rights groups over the draft legislation, which was presented as a private members' bill last year.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday denounced as "odious" a proposed anti-gay law in Uganda that has drawn international condemnation.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill (2009), now before the House’s Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, proposes life imprisonment for acts of homosexuality and introduces a serious crime called “aggravated homosexuality”.
"We may disagree about gay marriage, but surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are -- whether it's here in the United States or ... more extremely in odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda," Obama told the National Prayer Breakfast.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking before Obama at the annual bipartisan gathering of religious and political leaders, also criticized the draft law being considered by Uganda's parliament.
Clinton said she recently called Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and expressed the "strongest concerns" about the proposed legislation. The call was made on Dec. 20, a State Department official said.
Early this year, President Museveni publicly disowned the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, saying it does not represent the party or government position.
Mr Museveni, who said he wanted to clear the confusion the Bill has created both locally and internationally, indicated Uganda cannot risk its foreign policy by allowing the Bill to pass in its present form. He said cabinet will sit with Mr Bahati to handle the matter.
Uganda has continuously faced intense pressure from Western governments and human rights groups over the draft legislation, which was presented as a private members' bill last year.
It would prohibit sexual relations between people of the same sex as well as the recognition of homosexual relations as an acceptable lifestyle, Navi Pillay, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said last month.
Pillay said the draft law would breach international standards and it "proposes draconian punishments for people alleged to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered -- namely life imprisonment, or in some cases, the death penalty."
It could lead to a prison sentence of up to three years for anyone failing to report within 24 hours the identities of any lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered person, she added.
Uganda's Ethics and Integrity Minister Nsaba Buturo has said a revised law would probably limit the maximum penalty for those convicted to life in prison rather than execution.
Obama, who won strong backing from homosexual voters in the 2008 presidential election, has promised to fight on their behalf.
In his State of the Union address last week, he said he would seek the repeal of the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy that permits gays to serve in uniform as long as they hide their sexual orientation.