The Ugandan parliament’s Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee has recommended passage of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, including retaining the death penalty.

Human Rights Watch called the development “regrettable”, and said that the committee’s report is likely to be presented to parliament today as part of a debate after which the bill could be voted on and passed.

The committee proposed a number of amendments to the October 2009 draft bill but despite the suggestion by the bill’s author, David Bahati, that the death penalty could be deleted from the legislation, the committee recommends retaining it.

It also recommends the creation of an additional crime, “conduct[ing] a marriage ceremony between persons of the same sex,” punishable by three years in prison, which was not in the original draft.

Other recommended changes include removing provisions criminalising “attempted” homosexuality, because such allegations would be very difficult to prove.

The committee also recognised that provisions requiring anyone who knows of homosexual conduct to report to police within 24 hours would create “problems especially to professionals whose ethics include confidentiality in order to be able to carry out their functions like Doctors, Lawyers and Counsellors”.

The committee, however, did not comment on the proposed provision criminalising the “promotion of homosexuality,” which would jeopardise the work of national and international activists and organisations working to defend and promote human rights in Uganda.

According to Human Rights Watch, the committee said that it consulted with several key stakeholders in generating its recommendations, including civil society, government agencies, including the Justice Ministry, Uganda Law Reform Commission, prisons, and the Uganda Human Rights Commission.

It is not clear how many committee members participated in drafting the report. At consultations attended by Human Rights Watch, it noted that only three of the committee’s 20 members were present.

An international online petition opposing the adoption of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been signed by over 1.5 million people in just a few days.

While countries such as the UK and the US have condemned Uganda’s pending Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the South African government has stayed silent on the matter and has kept its openly homophobic ambassador, Jon Qwelane, in Uganda at his post.

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