Vice President Edward Ssekandi

Ugandan Vice President Edward Ssekandi has assured British Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone that the death penalty will be dropped from his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Featherstone visited Uganda last week and held discussions on issues including women’s rights, freedom of expression and the dreaded anti-gay legislation.

Ssekandi was quoted as telling the British minister that “homosexuality is alien to our culture”.

This contradicted recent remarks by President Yoweri Museveni that homosexuality is indeed part of Africa’s traditional culture.

According to the New Vision newspaper, Ssekandi also “admitted that the mooted death penalty is harsh and will be dropped”.

Originally tabled in 2009 as a private members’ bill, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which would impose the death penalty on repeat offenders, was re-introduced into Parliament earlier this year.

Even without the death penalty, the proposed legislation will nevertheless further criminalise homosexuality which is already illegal in Uganda. Anyone who “aids, abets [or] counsels” any gay person and anyone who rents a home or room to a gay person could also be sentenced to seven years in jail.

It remains unclear when it will be voted on and to what extent the bill is being backed by the government.

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