Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni Signs Bill Punishing Gays with Life In Prison
A highly controversial bill punishing LGBT Ugandans with up to life in prison has been signed by the East African nation’s Christian president.
BBC reports Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law on Monday despite warnings from the United States and other Western nations that doing so could damage relations and lead to a decrease in aid.
Ugandan lawmakers applauded as Museveni signed the measure into law in front of his State House.
“The topic of homosexuals was provoked by the arrogant and careless Western groups that are fond of coming into our schools and recruiting young people into homosexuality and lesbianism,” the president declared. “Even now we have not really fully understood how [a man] can fail to be attracted to all these beautiful women here… and you’re attracted by a man. That’s a very serious matter. To me there is something really wrong with you. For me, I thought they must be born like that. No study has shown that. No study has shown that you can be homosexual purely by nature.”
While gay sex was already illegal under colonial-era laws, the new legislation increases existing punishments for anyone caught engaging in homosexual acts and imposes life prison sentences for those convicted of “aggravated homosexuality,” defined as sex acts in which at least one of the participants is HIV-positive, sex with minors or disabled people, and repeat gay ‘offenses’ between consenting adults.
“Promotion of homosexuality,” or encouraging closeted gays to ‘come out,’ is also heavily criminalized under the measure, as is conducting same-sex marriages– a ‘crime’ which could result in a seven year prison term.
The law also criminalizes lesbianism for the first time. It also bans helping individuals engage in homosexual acts.
The original bill, which was drafted with the help of US evangelical Christian missionaries, would have imposed the death penalty for certain gay ‘crimes,’ but the capital punishment provision was dropped from the current version after intense international outcry. Also cut from the final bill was a provision that made it a crime to not report gays to the authorities.
Museveni had delayed signing the bill into law until after he sought the advice of a ministerial committee composed of scientific and medial authorities from the health ministry and Makerere University. That committee prepared a report concluding that while homosexuality is not “abnormal” nor a “disease,” it ought to be “regulated.”
Museveni, who has called gays “abnormal” and called for their “rehabilitation,” did not include the part about homosexuality being normal human behavior in his government’s final report. This Digital Journalist emailed every Ugandan who prepared the ministerial committee report. Only one individual, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, replied. This doctor was furious at Museveni’s government for manipulating the committee’s findings.
“The NRM (the ruling National Resistance Movement) twisted our scientific report for God knows what reason,” the researcher wrote. When asked about his personal views on homosexuality, he conceded that “some people may be born gay,” that gays could not be “cured” and that he does not believe they should be punished simply for being who they are.
“The only instance a homosexual should be punished is if he or she commits a crime that, if committed by a heterosexual, would result in the same punishment,” he wrote.
But that sentiment seemed to be in the minority in Uganda, where LGBT people are sometimes the victims of homophobic violence.
International human rights groups and many world leaders urged Museveni to reject the highly discriminatory bill. After the law was passed, the United States called it “abhorrent” and “a sad day” for Uganda and the world. President Barack Obama described the law as “a step backwards for all Ugandans.”
Obama also warned that the new law could “complicate” US-Ugandan relations. Uganda receives an estimated $400 million in annual US aid.
But Ugandan leaders seemed unconcerned about US and other international disapproval or any potential loss of aid.
“There’s now an attempt at social imperialism, to impose social values,” Museveni said as he signed the bill. “We’re sorry to see that you (the West) live the way you live, but we keep quiet about it.”
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