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In apparent response to growing international pressure, the author of a bill that would stiffen Uganda's already strict criminal penalties against homosexuality has announced that the death penalty provision has been removed.

Parliamentarian David Bahati said the bill, which is expected to be voted on next month, had "moved away from the death penalty after considering all the issues that have been raised."

"There is no death penalty," he told The Associated Press.

Bahati said the bill now focuses on protecting children from gay pornography, banning gay marriage, counseling gays, as well as punishing those who promote gay culture. Jail terms are prescribed for various offenses, he said, offering no details.

The BBC reported last week that the death penalty provision has been removed.  However, this is the first word from the bill's author.  

An amended version hasn't been released yet, so hopefully Bahati isn't pulling the international community's leg.

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Bahati originally said the law as originally written was needed to toughen a colonial-era law against sodomy.  But apparently there were some pretty strenuous objections to a death penalty for homosexual acts within Uganda as well, per a member of a parliamentary committee working on the bill.

One of the members, Krispus Ayena, said Friday that some parliamentarians spoke strongly against certain provisions in the bill as well as the death penalty itself.

"There was a dissenting voice in the committee," Ayena said. "They argued very forcefully that we should not do a thing like that: to regulate what goes on in bedrooms. First of all, is it practicable to regulate that? And there are those who say this is very oppressive."

We can only hope that it is true.  But if it is, it's nothing less than a major victory.  As odious as the bill still is on paper, sending people to death just for being gay would have been absolutely barbaric.

9:25 PM PT: Proof of just how odious this bill still is--a provision in the bill which absolves "victims of homosexuality" from punishment for any crimes committed as a result of "involvement in homosexuality."  According to several commenters, it's a "stand your ground" clause that could easily give a person license to kill anyone whom he or she believes is making a gay pass at them.  


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