A Ugandan government spokesperson announced today that President Yoweri Museveni has decided to sign into law a bill formerly known as the “Kill the Gays” bill, BuzzFeed reported.
The death penalty has been removed from the bill, but the law would still represent an intensification of an ongoing crackdown against LGBT people in Uganda, which has already resulted in numerous arrests.
The official text of the bill has not been released.
Present Yoweri Museveni’s decision to sign the bill was announced today by government spokesman Ofwono Opondo via Twitter and confirmed to BuzzFeed by NRM party caucus spokeswoman Evelyn Anite. BuzzFeed reported:
“This is a reversal for Museveni, who had written to members of parliament after the legislation passed in December that he had come to believe that homosexuality was a biological ‘abnormality’ and not something that should be criminalized. He had also told western human rights activists that he would reject the bill during a meeting last month.
“Museveni made his announcement during a retreat with members of his party, the National Resistance Movement, which has primarily focused on the party’s leadership as it prepares for elections in 2016. Museveni had been facing stiff pressure from his colleagues to accept the bill.
“The deciding factor may have been that a panel of party members with medical backgrounds Museveni convened to study the cause of homosexuality presented a report concluding homosexuality is not an in-born trait. Museveni had told lawmakers he would sign the bill if ‘I have got confirmation from scientists that this condition is not genetic.’
“The committee chairman told BuzzFeed on Thursday, ‘Speaking as a medical doctor … homosexuality is just deviant behavior. It can be learned, and it can be unlearned.’ “
Which scientists would say that?
In addition to pandering to the wishes of a homophobic majority of Ugandans, Museveni seems to have relied on anti-gay Ugandan doctors in reaching his decision. Recently, for example, the Monitor of Uganda quoted doctors who are also members of parliament in Uganda as stating that homosexuality is “acquired through training,” “a behavioural deviation,” “and “a result of adventurism.”
He apparently disregarded the conclusions of hundreds of international experts. A letter to Museveni — signed by 200 clinicians, scientists, academics, and other experts from 11 countries (Brazil, Canada, Greece, Kenya, Mexico, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the United States) — informed him that “sexual orientation is not a matter of choice.” That letter, titled “Scientific Information About Homosexuality for President Museveni,” was sent to him on Feb. 3
The letter added that “it is unlikely that there is one simple biological or genetic cause for homosexuality in all people, [but] there are neural, cognitive and personality differences between homosexuals and heterosexuals which appear to have at least some basis in biology.” The letter also discounted “theories that claim sexual abuse or recruitment causes homosexuality.”
What the law will condemn
Although the official language of the bill has not been released, an unofficial version, based on reports from members of parliament, provides for:
- Life imprisonment for same-sex intimacy — the same punishment currently provided under existing Ugandan law.
- Life imprisonment for same-sex marriage. (The Ugandan constitution already prohibits same-sex marriage.)
- Up to seven years in prison for conducting a same-sex wedding ceremony.
- A fine and/or imprisonment for five to seven years for “promoting homosexuality” and for anyone who “in any way abets homosexuality and related practices.”
- Imprisonment for seven years for the “director or proprietor or promoter” of a company or association that is convicted of “promoting homosexuality.” In addition, the organization’s certificate of registration would be canceled.
Response from home and abroad
Jamaican LGBT rights activist Maurice Tomlinson commented, “I urge all well-thinking states to immediately provide free passage and asylum to LGBT Ugandans fleeing this lunacy. Also, please yank all visas/travel privileges and freeze all the assets of the maniacs who proposed and voted for this abhorrent law.”
LGBT rights author/researcher Jeff Sharlett expressed hope that the reports “still yet may not be true.”
Gay Star News reported Ugandan LGBT rights activist Pepe Julian Onziema saying:
“I am speechless. We thought we had done everything we could. I am shocked and I am worried.
“When it was actually passed in December 2013 there’s been significant people leaving the country, people going underground, people withdrawing from the movement.
“It’s because they themselves feel the effect of the bill. Now it’s taking minutes to be law, it’s scary for the community.
“We need the world to keep helping us, we will continue calling for global action. LGBT people need shelter and secure travel. For them, it’s not safe to be in Uganda anymore.”
Ugandan gay activist Edwin Sesange, of the Africa Out and Proud Diamond Group, told Gay Star News:
“I feel so bad that the president could come up with a such a decision but I kind of sensed it yesterday when he brought up the other bill to scrap bail for homosexuals.
“Now we have to be prepared to fight this law, to fight it through the courts, through campaigns and protests, all peaceful means. And we call on the international community to join us.
“It is going to be more than worse. We cannot get bail. There is no hiding place, we are not going to have justice because if we cannot get bail and the law is in place, life is going to be really difficult in Uganda.”
- Ugandan President To Sign Anti-Homosexuality Bill (Feb. 14, 2014, BuzzFeed)
Uganda president to sign anti-gay bill into law (Feb. 14, 2014, Gay Star News)
- Uganda parliament passes former ‘Kill the Gays’ bill (December 2013, 76crimes.com)
- Ugandan anti-gay bill — a self-contradictory mess (January 2014, 76crimes.com)
- VIDEO: Uganda Parliament passes draconian anti-gay bill (YouTube)
- The Text of Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill as Passed (O-blog-dee)
- Museveni to study anti-gay Bill before assenting (New Vision)
- Ugandan activists’ advice on threats to cut aid (76crimes.com)
- Uganda’s gays fear mounting violence (edition.cnn.com)
- Activist: Most Ugandans support anti-gay bill but the government is worried about losing aid (pinknews.co.uk)
- Dispute over LGBTI clinics in Uganda (76crimes.com)
- Sexual Minorities Fight for Health Services In Uganda (ipsnews.net)
- Ugandan LGBT Activists: ‘We Have to Stay and Fight’ (advocate.com)
- US condemns Uganda’s anti-homosexuality Bill (nation.co.ke)