Death penalty for gays may be dropped, says Ugandan MP

A Ugandan MP behind an anti-gay Bill that has attracted worldwide condemnation said yesterday that the most controversial part of the legislation – the death penalty provision – was likely to be dropped.

David Bahati said he "would concede" if the parliamentary committee debating the new law recommended that the execution clause was removed. "The death penalty is something we have moved away from," said Mr Bahati, a member of Uganda's ruling National Resistance Movement who studied at the University of Wales in Cardiff. His private member's Bill was widely criticised when he proposed it 18 months ago.

The legislation may come up for a vote before parliament's session ends on 12 May. Mr Bahati's original draft carried harsh provisions, including a mandatory death sentence for active homosexuals living with HIV, or in cases of same-sex rape. "Serial offenders" would have faced capital punishment and anyone convicted of a homosexual act would face life in prison.

The MP said yesterday he thought the Bill would become law if voted on by legislators. "I can guarantee you I have not seen any member of parliament who is opposed to it," he added.

Frank Mugisha, of the gay rights group Sexual Minorities Uganda, said anti-gay sentiment had increased since Mr Bahati's Bill was tabled.