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Uganda gays to get 'same health treatment as everyone else'

PROTESTER: A man demonstrates against Uganda's anti-gay bill (PA)

GAY PEOPLE will get the same health treatment as everyone else, according to the Ugandan health minister, after concerns that non-straight people could be discriminated against by healthcare professionals.

Ruhakana Rugunda said despite the government passing the new law imposing harsh sentences for gay sex, gay people will not be discriminated against by medical workers.

This is because of the clause which would have required medical workers to report homosexuals to police was removed from the bill that became law on Monday (Feb 24).

He said: “We are saying that as far as health is concerned they [gays] are at liberty. They should give full disclosure to their nurses… We do not discriminate against patients on the basis of sexual orientation. That’s why we are encouraging gay Ugandans to take advantage of the health systems.”

Although the death penalty clause was removed from the anti-gay act, which builds on a colonial-era anti-homosexuality law, those found guilty of “homosexuality” will be sentenced to 14 years in jail.

Despite the reassurance some campaigners have said they do not feel confident about that.

Pepe Julian Onziema, a prominent gay activist in Uganda said yesterday (Feb 26), he and a few other openly gay Ugandans had been discriminated against.

He said: “I once went to a clinic where I stayed in a queue for hours and people who came after me were being served.

“You stand in the queue and they ignore you. And you hear them saying, ‘that is a gay person. We can’t serve him. We shall not serve him.”’

This follows a Ugandan tabloid newspaper outing “200 top homosexuals” in the country a day after the government passed harsh anti-gay laws.

The cover of the Red Pepper newspaper read, "EXPOSED! Uganda's 200 Top Homos Named," with several photographs next to the headline.

Attitudes against homosexuality are prevalent in Uganda. A 2013 report from Pew Research found that 96 per cent of Ugandans believe society should not accept homosexuality.

38 African countries have made homosexuality illegal. Most anti-sodomy laws there were introduced during the colonial era.

President Yoweri Museveni who signed the bill into law, said it was needed to stop what he described as the West's “social imperialism” promoting homosexuality in Africa.

During the signing at his official residence, he cited a report by Ugandan scientists, which said there is no proven genetic basis for homosexuality, as his reason for backing the bill.

He explained he had previously thought homosexuality was a genetic “abnormality”, but said he is now convinced that it is a choice made by individuals who may try to influence others.

Activist Onziema told CNN that some gay people in Uganda would rather kill themselves than live under the new law.

He said: "Prior to the bill becoming law today, people attempted suicide because they are like, 'I'm not going to live to see this country kill me - so I would rather take my life.'"

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