KAMPALA, Uganda – The draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill is now law in Uganda, putting the lives of the LGBT community into harm’s way and setting back human rights in this landlocked African nation.
President Yoweri Museveni, the 69-year-old leader who has ruthlessly ruled since 1986, bowed to intense political and public pressure to sign the controversial bill in a rare public signing today at State House that was television nationwide.
Museveni blamed the West for forcing him to the bill, saying that he must stop “social imperialism” promoting homosexuality in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa. Uganda now joins Russia and Nigeria in the unabashed persecution of the LGBT minority in legislation that has its roots in American Evangelical extremists, led by Scott Lively, who is facing charges of "crimes against humanity" in civil court in the U.S. filed by LGBT Ugandans.
The White House issued this terse response today via President Obama's press secretary:
"Instead of standing on the side of freedom, justice, and equal rights for its people, today, regrettably, Ugandan President Museveni took Uganda a step backward by signing into law legislation criminalizing homosexuality. As President Obama has said, this law is more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda, it reflects poorly on the country's commitment to protecting the human rights of its people and will undermine public health, including efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. We will continue to urge the Ugandan government to repeal this abhorrent law and to advocate for the protection of the universal human rights of LGBT persons in Uganda and around the world."
Western nations, including the U.S. and UK, had joined the United Nations and the European Union in condemning the so-called “Kill The Gays” bill. The new law removed the death penalty but calls for life in prison for those convicted of being “serial” homosexuals. First-time offenders face a 14-year sentence.
The horrendous law turns Uganda into a snitch society, where anyone who does not report homosexuals to authorities could be convicted and jailed, and forces families to choose between loving their LGBT relatives or turning them in to police.
Like the much-criticized Russian “gay propaganda” law, Uganda’s new law also criminalizes the promotion of homosexuality or the recognition of gay relationships. In effect, the law drives the LGBT community underground and out of sight.
Museveni, a very unpopular president who faces re-election in 2016 in a nation wracked by abject poverty, widespread unemployment and public unrest, apparently lied last month to Archbishop Tutu and a delegation from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights when he said he would not sign the bill.
Today, after he signed the bill, Museveni came under withering criticism from around the world.
“This deeply offensive piece of legislation is an affront to the human rights of all Ugandans and should never have got this far,” said Michelle Kagari, Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.
“This legislation will institutionalize hatred and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in Uganda. Its passage into law signals a very grave episode in the nation’s history.
“The Anti-Homosexuality Bill will further criminalize consensual sexual activity between adults of the same sex, with some offenses carrying life imprisonment. It also includes offenses such as ‘promotion of homosexuality’, which will directly impact human rights defenders and healthcare providers. It makes a mockery of the rights enshrined in the Ugandan constitution,” Kagari said.
American Jewish World Service (AJWS), a human rights organization, called the new law a violation of basic human rights for Ugandans.
“By signing this draconian bill into law, President Museveni has demonstrated his disregard for the fundamental human rights of Ugandan citizens and has sanctioned hate and discrimination toward LGBT Ugandans,” said Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS. “This is a cynical maneuver by President Museveni to consolidate his political power at the expense of the lives and dignity of LGBT Ugandans.
“AJWS’s partners in Uganda are not giving up without a fight. A broad-based coalition of organizations is prepared to challenge the constitutionality of the Anti-Homosexuality Law in court. We are proud to support these organizations and stand by them in these efforts.”
Messinger pointed out that the law will also mean:
• Loss of legal status for organizations serving or promoting the rights of LGBT people
• Prison sentences of seven years for the directors of LGBT organizations
• Prevent outreach to LGBT people to connect them to critical services
• Sanction acts of violence perpetrated against LGBT people and the organizations that support them
Kushaba Moses Mworeko, a Ugandan gay activist who was granted asylum in the U.S. and is now a U.S. Army medic, gave the BBC his reaction to the new laws:
“I think this will go in Uganda's history as one of the worst events following Kony [the Lord's Resistance Army rebel leader] and Idi Amin's regime. This is going to open doors [for] people to start reporting their friends or people they hate to the police. My brothers or my family if they don't report me they are also going to be charged.
“It is going to be enforced because first of all, you have this majority of people that really don't like gay people and it is being fired up by members of parliament, [who] want to please their people.
“Five years ago things were calm - then the visiting of the US evangelicals [began]. Before then, people never even talked about it. Last month when I went back to Uganda, things had changed a little bit, you had the newspapers having people's opinions, you had gay people going on radio talk shows … I mean to change people's attitudes, people have to talk.
“Most of these people have this cultural belief in longevity and in extended families; they want a child, a grandchild. [With] homosexuality they start envisioning this world of no people - their legacy is gone - that's where the whole negativity comes in.”
Pepe Julian Onziema, a well-known Ugandan LGBT activist, said on Friday that he will challenge the legislation in court.
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Daily Monitor in Uganda printed Museveni’s full speech at the signing.
Among the comments:
I distilled three problems:
1. those who were promoting homo-sexuality and recruiting normal people into it;
2. as a consequence of No. 1 above, many of those recruited were doing so for mercenary reasons – to get money – in effect homosexual prostitutes; these mercenary homosexual prostitutes had to be punished;
3. Homosexuals exhibiting themselves; Africans are flabbergasted by exhibitionism of sexual acts – whether heterosexual or otherwise and for good reason. Why do you exhibit your sexual conduct? Are you short of opportunity for privacy - where you can kiss, fondle (kukirigiita, kwagaaga) etc.?
Are we interested in seeing your sexual acts – we the Public? I am not able to understand the logic of the Western Culture. However, we Africans always keep our opinions to ourselves and never seek to impose our point of view on the others. If only they could let us alone.
It was my view that the above three should be punished harshly in order to defend our society from disorientation. Therefore, on these three I was in total accord with the MPs and other Ugandans. I had, however, a problem with Category 4 or what I thought was category 4 – those “born” homosexual.
I thought there were such people – those who are either genetic or congenital homosexuals. The reason I thought so was because I could not understand why a man could fail to be attracted to the beauties of a woman and, instead, be attracted to a fellow man. It meant, according to me, that there was something wrong with that man – he was born a homosexual – abnormal.
I, therefore, thought that it would be wrong to punish somebody because of how he was created, disgusting though it may be to us. That is why I refused to sign the Bill. In order to get to the truth, we involved Uganda Scientists as well as consulting Scientists from outside Uganda.
My question to them was: “Are there people that are homosexual right from birth?”. After exhaustive studies, it has been found that homosexuality is in two categories: there are those who engage in homosexuality for mercenary reasons on account of the under – developed sectors of our economy that cause people to remain in poverty, the great opportunities that abound not withstanding; and then there are those that become homosexual by both nature (genetic) and nurture (up-bringing).
The studies that were done on identical twins in Sweden showed that 34% - 39% were homosexual on account of nature and 66% were homosexual on account of nurture.
Therefore, even in those studies, nurture was more significant than nature. Can somebody be homosexual purely by nature without nurture? The answer is: “No”. No study has shown that. Since nurture is the main cause of homosexuality, then society can do something about it to discourage the trends. That is why I have agreed to sign the Bill.
Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.