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Uganda’s President Denies Anti-LGBT Persecution

Jim Burroway

March 20th, 2013

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni reportedly told a visiting delegation from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights that there was no marginalization or killing of LGBT people in Uganda. Both the government-owned New Vision and the independent Daily Monitor reported on Museveni’s remarks yesterday According to New Vision:

President Yoweri Museveni has said the issue of homosexuality and lesbianism has been totally distorted leading to wrong public debate.

“In our society, there were a few homosexuals. There was no persecution, no killings and no marginalization of these people but they were regarded as deviants. Sex among Africans including heterosexuals is confidential,” Museveni said.

“If am to kiss my wife in public, I would lose an election in Uganda. Western people exhibit sexual acts in public which we don’t do here,” he said, adding that, Africans do even punish heterosexuals who publically expose their sexual acts.

The president said what is new is the way Europeans and other Western people handle the issue of sexuality in general, including public flaunting which is a problem and luring young people into acts of homosexuality for money.

He said attempts to promote homosexuality as an alternative way of life has led to engagements in running battles with the church.

“You have a lot of room in your house, why don’t you go there. Sex is a bilateral issue, not a multilateral one,” he said.

Among the delegation was Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy. In 2011, the Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights honored Sexual Minorities Uganda executive director Frank Mugisha with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. According to Daily Monitor:

Ms Kennedy, who was accompanied by several lawyers, actors and religious leaders, expressed concern over the pending Anti-Homosexuality bill, reports of harassment of the Gay and Lesbian Community in Uganda and over the exposure of the identities of sexual minority groups. She also said the pending bill on homosexuality works against the international law treaties that Uganda has signed. Ms Kennedy cautioned against the misconceptions that equate paedophiles with homosexuals.

New Vision reported that Kennedy also told Museveni that “it is a violation of people’s rights to put pictures of sexual minority groups in the [news] papers.” Museveni reportedly promised to investigate:

Reacting to various issues raised by the team, Museveni said he would investigate claims of violence against homosexuals, adding that for a viable solution, activists must respect the confidentiality of sex in our traditions and culture. He reiterated that in Uganda, “there is no discrimination, no killings, no marginalization, no luring of young people using money into homosexual acts”.

Museveni did not directly address the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which still incudes the death penalty for what it defines as “aggravated homosexuality.” Some observers believe that in these statements he was distancing himself from the proposed legislation. I don’t see it that way at all. Besides, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been an exceptionally useful tool for Museveni’s government as it pursues other political agendas.

The bill still remains on Parliament’s agenda, under the heading of “Business to follow,” where it has occupied various spots since November. Parliament is currently on break until April as it wrangles over the highly controversial Marriage and Divorce Bill, which is wrapped up in highly emotional arguments over women in society and, in addition, pits government policy against entrenched and longstanding tribal practices. In fact, it was a walk out by women MP’s in a dispute over the Marriage and Divorce Bill in the closing days of the Eighth Parliament in 2011 which prevented the Anti-Homosexuality Bill from coming to a vote. With the Marriage and Divorce Bill back on the agenda, it appears that the AHB is again playing its normal role, having been placed on stand-by in case a unifying vote is needed to  heal fractures in Parliament, or if a popular vote is needed to salve outraged sectors of the general public.

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