UPDATE: Uganda: Anti-gay bill pushed out of parliament

The Guardian

Uganda's reviled anti-gay bill, which mandates the death penalty in some cases, remains in limbo after parliament adjourned without a debate. Edward Ssekandi Kiwanuk, the parliamentary speaker, ruled there was no time to take up the bill this session. He has adjourned the parliament and set no date for its return. A source close to proceedings said parliament could technically come back between now and 17 May but most MPs were leaving for their constituencies. Bills not completed in the old parliament are wiped and must be resubmitted. Update to Uganda: Anti-Homosexuality Bill is Anti-Human Rights and Anti-Democratic: ACT NOW TO STOP IT!

Helen Kawesa, spokeswoman for parliament, told Associated Press that the anti-gay bill could come back up for debate in the next parliament but would probably take time to get back to the floor. David Bahati, the MP who authored the bill, had said he would try to move it forward in the next session if it was not voted on this time.

Opponents of the legislation welcomed the setback. Alice Jay, campaign director of the online group Avaaz, said: "The news that the brutal anti-gay law won't be discussed in parliament today is a victory for all Ugandans and people across the world who value human rights.

"This vile bill is a matter of life and death for gay Ugandans, and would have seen the execution, imprisonment and persecution of friends of Avaaz, and thousands of others who have committed no crime at all. We must now ensure this heinous bill can never return to parliament again."

Christopher Senyonjo, a retired Ugandan Anglican bishop, said: "This was a dangerous bill and there is a lot of tension and riots in the country. We feared that they may use this opportunity to do anything to anybody.

"This bill must never see the light of day as the mob could use this to inflict terrible crimes against people. The pressure from people around the world has had a big impact and the resulting influence from the international community has played a very important role in stopping this going forward today."

Kakoba Onyango, a member of parliament, told Associated Press the anti-gay bill had taken so long because President Yoweri Museveni did not back it and human rights groups had criticised it. The US state department this week described it as "odious" and said it should never be passed in any form.

Human Rights Watch said in recent days a parliamentary committee had recommended passage of the bill and retained the death penalty "aggravated homosexuality". It added criminal penalties for "conduct[ing] a marriage ceremony between persons of the same sex".

Graeme Reid, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) programme at Human Rights Watch, said: "It should be scrapped. The committee's recommendations fall wholly short of making this a bill worth parliament's time.

"Even if these suggestions are taken on board the bill will remain discriminatory, a profound threat to Uganda's LGBT community and put Uganda at odds with its fundamental human rights obligations."