Uganda: Nearly 500,000 Sign Petition to Repeal Anti-Gay Bill

A petition containing nearly half a million signatures was delivered to the Uganda Parliament this week this week requesting a repeal of the African country's notorious anti-homosexuality bill.

Organized by advocacy group Avaaz, the petition was meant to present a "worldwide outcry" against the anti-gay legislation, and "alarm" the Ugandan government of potential "global isolation."

The petition states: "We stand with citizens across Uganda who are calling on their government to withdraw the anti-homosexual bill, and to protect the universal human rights embodied in the Ugandan constitution. We urge Uganda's leaders and donors to join us in rejecting persecution and upholding values of justice and tolerance."

The petition comes just weeks international outcry prompted Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to call for a review of the legislation.

Figures including U.S. President Barack Obama and the Archbishop of Canterbury have denounced the legislation, calling it "odious" and "repugnant."

Petition supporter the Rev. Canon Gideon Byamugisha wrote on Avaaz's website that the anti-gay bill "is violating our cultures, traditions and religious values that teach against intolerance, injustice, hatred and violence. We need laws to protect people -- not ones that will humiliate, ridicule, persecute and kill them en masse."

Punishments under the current bill, which was introduced in October 2009 by Ugandan minister David Bahati, include a life in prison sentence for homosexual behavior and the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality" where one or more participant is a "serial offender," HIV-positive, a minor, or a disabled person.

Those convicted of failing to report homosexual behavior are also punished under the bill with a sentence of up to three years in prison.

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