Uganda's parliament passes tough anti-gay bill

Uganda's parliament passes tough anti-gay bill

Uganda's parliament on Tuesday passed sweeping anti-gay legislation which proposes tough new penalties for same-sex relationships following a highly charged and chaotic session.

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"The ayes have it," parliamentary speaker Annet Anita Among said after a final vote, adding that the "bill passed in record time."

Legislators amended significant portions of the original proposed law with all but one speaking against the bill.

Homosexuality is already illegal in the conservative East African nation and it was not immediately clear what new penalties had been agreed upon.

"This House will not shy to restrict any right to the extent the House recognises, protects and safeguards the sovereignty of this country and the morals of this country," Among said.

The bill will next go to President Yoweri Museveni, who can choose to veto or sign it into law.

The legislation enjoys broad public support in Uganda and reaction from civil society has been muted following years of erosion of civic space under Museveni's increasingly authoritarian rule.

In recent months, unfounded conspiracy theories accusing shadowy international forces of promoting homosexuality have gained traction on social media in Uganda.

Last week, police said they had arrested six men for "practising homosexuality" in the southern lakeside town of Jinja.

Another six men were arrested on the same charge on Sunday, according to police.

Uganda is notorious for intolerance of homosexuality -- which is criminalised under colonial-era laws.

But since independence from Britain in 1962 there has never been a conviction for consensual same-sex activity.

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