Spokesman: Uganda President to Sign Anti-Homosexuality Bill into Law
February 14th, 2014
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has decided to sign a law imposing up to a lifetime jail sentence for homosexuality, announced government spokesman Ofwono Opondo via Twitter on Friday. NRM caucus spokeswoman Evelyn Anite confirmed Opondo’s announcement to BuzzFeed.
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.
Throughout the years since the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was first introduced in Uganda’s Parliament, Museveni has made several attempts to sidetrack the bill. In 2010, four months after the bill’s introduction, Museveni told his ruling party caucus that the government should “go slow” with the bill, citing foreign policy concerns. Later that year, Museveni’s cabinet reported that they had “rejected” the private member’s bill sponsored by M.P. David Bahati. His cabinet tried to repeat that assertion again in 2011, only to be told that because it is a private member’s bill, it was not the cabinet’s to reject. After Parliament passed the bill last December despite not having a proper quorum as required by the constitution, Museveni denounced the bill in a letter to Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and vowed to find a “scientifically correct solution.” He also told representatives from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights that he would not give his assent to what he called a “fascist” bill.
One possible development in Museveni’s reconsideration of the bill may be political. Speaker Kadaga, who is among the bill’s earliest supporters, reportedly has presidential aspirations and sees pushing Anti-Homosexuality Bill as a convenient populist move. Her pushing the bill through Parliament set up an interesting dynamic ahead of the annual NRM Caucus in January where Museveni had planned to line up support for his bid for re-election in 2016 to add another 5-year term to what will be thirty years in office. At least one of his ministers had threatened to resign if Museveni were to return the bill to Parliament, a development that would complicate his party’s coronation. Another turning point may have occurred two weeks ago when, according to a report in Uganda’s Observer, he “surprised his ruling NRM MPs on Friday when he said he would only sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law, if he gets scientific proof that homosexuals are made and not born.” Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, also reported on that development, adding:
A source who attended the Friday meeting said MPs urged the President to sign the Bill. Dr Medard Bitekyerezo, MP for Mbarara Municipality, informed the President that nobody is born a homosexual but the behaviour is only acquired through training. “Homosexuality is not genetically transmitted. It is a behavioural deviation but on the negative side,” Dr Betekyerezo reportedly said.
Dr Chris Baryomunsi (Kinkizi East) said: “The President wanted the science which we gave him and he agreed with us that recruiters and promoters should be dealt with accordingly. We told him that homosexuality started as a result of adventurism.”
This development comes despite the American Psychiatric Association’s recent statement denouncing the bill and calling into question “the quality of the scientific pronouncements about homosexuality by Ugandan mental health organizations.” It also comes on the heels of today’s news that researchers in Chicago have identified a possible genetic link between homosexuality and the Xq28 chromosome and homosexuality in at least some gay men.
If Museveni signs the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law, it will impose a life sentence on anyone who is found to be in a gay relationship or who is a “repeat offender” of any other portion of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Other provisions include criminal penalties for providing lodgings or services to gay people, conducting a same-sex wedding ceremony, or advocated for or on behalf of LGBT people.