The Citizen (Dar es Salaam)

Tanzania: New Uganda Anti-Gay Law Irks Sweden

Kampala — Sweden has joined the growing list of countries heaping pressure on Uganda to discard a proposed law that would severely punish homosexuality.

According to comments attributed to Gunilla Carlsson, Sweden's development assistance minister, the Swedish government says it would cut aid to Uganda over an anti-gay law they find "appalling".

"My number two at the ministry, who has direct contact with the Ugandan government, has brought it up," Ms Carlsson recently told Swedish Radio News.

"We've talked about it in Uganda, and I've also tried to speak to the kind of organisations in Uganda that are the target of the legislation." Uganda receives about $50 million in development aid from Sweden annually.

Swedish Radio News reported online, in a November 30 article, that the Scandinavian country would consider discontinuing development aid to Uganda if the law was introduced.

"I'm doubly disappointed, partly because Uganda is a country with which we have had long-term relations and where I thought and hoped we had started to share common values and understanding," the minister is quoted as saying.

"The law is wretched, but it's also offensive to see how Ugandans choose to look at how we see things, and the kind of reception we get when we bring up these issues."

Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, who brought the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (2009), has denied accusations that he is in a hate campaign, insisting he is defending the heterosexual family. Mr Bahati has the tacit support of President Museveni, who has made strong anti-gay statements in recent times. If passed in its current form, the law would create a felony called "aggravated homosexuality".

Offenders would face death for having sex with a minor or a disabled person, or for infecting their partners with HIV. It would also punish attempted homosexuality as well as the failure of a third party to report homosexual relationships.

Critics of the proposed law say it is not needed, as the Penal Code Act already punishes homosexuality, and that it is based on unproven claims that European gays are clandestinely recruiting in Uganda.

In Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's conservative government called the proposed law "vile and hateful", while Britain's Gordon Brown raised the issue with President Museveni during the recent Commonwealth summit in Trinidad and Tobago.

Ms Carlsson said the law would make it "much more difficult" for Sweden to continue helping Uganda.

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