Seventeen human rights groups have called for proposed new laws on homosexuality in Uganda to be scrapped immediately.

This week, Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, of the ruling party, tabled the private member’s bill in parliament to create a new crime of “aggravated homosexuality”.

According to his bill, those convicted of having gay sex with disabled people and those under the 18 would face the death penalty.

Gay and human rights groups have condemned the proposed laws, saying they would violate basic human rights.

In a statement, 17 groups expressed their concern over the bill, titled the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009.

Kate Sheill, Amnesty International’s expert on sexual rights, said: “Certain provisions in this bill are illegal; they are also immoral. They criminalise a sector of society for being who they are, when what the government should be doing instead is protecting them from discrimination and abuse.”

Others warned it would lead to a rise in HIV infections, while some warned that other minority groups were likely to find themselves receiving similar treatment.

Victor Mukasa, of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said: “This inflammatory bill will be taken as further confirmation that it is okay to attack or even kill people perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. It is the government’s responsibility to immediately withdraw this dangerous proposal.”

The bill also imposes life imprisonment on those who have homosexual sex. Although this is already the case in Uganda, the new law widens the definition of the offence.

Other offence include promoting homosexuality, aiding and abetting homosexuality and keeping a house “for purposes of homosexuality”.

Bahati said his bill would protect children, youths and the “traditional family”.

Human rights activists say Uganda, with a population of 31 million, has some 500,000 gays and lesbians.