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Posts for February, 2014

Ugandan Psychologist: Museveni’s Party Caucus “Left Out Vital Facts In Our Report”

Jim Burroway

February 22nd, 2014

It’s fair to say that the  “Scientific Statement on Homosexuality” written by members of the Ugandan Ministry of Health and Makerere University leaves a lot to be desired, leaving out as it does so much of the research on research on the biological origins of homosexuality. There are a lot of points in the report that can be criticized, but beyond that it’s also important to notice that the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) press release on the report differs from the report itself in very significant ways.

Peter Mwesige, of the African Centre for Media Excellence, an African journalism watchdog, digs into those differences and concludes that the NRM press release distorts the statement’s conclusions that in saying “Homosexuality is not a disease but merely an abnormal behavior which may be learned through experiences in life,” when the statement itself says “homosexuality is not an abnormality.” Mwesige  points to those differences and admonishes journalists for not publicizing the discrepancies:

Regardless of where they stand on the gay debate, journalists still have a responsibility to subject statements from the President and other political leaders to scrutiny and to seek out the opinion of people who are knowledgeable about such complex issues, in this case the scientists whose advice the President and his party purport to have relied on in reaching a key decision on the anti-gay bill.

Dr. Paul Bangirana (Makerere University College of Health Sciences)

One of the experts is my friend Paul Bangirana (Ph.D.), a clinical psychologist who was part of the team of scientists that authored the report on homosexuality.

He told me in a phone interview that he was “personally disappointed by the Caucus. We didn’t say homosexuality is an abnormality. We categorically state it is NOT an abnormality. We also report that there [may be] a biological basis for the behaviour but there is no conclusive link as of now. They left out some vital facts in our report.”

Dr Bangirana said he can understand if some of the media reports were filed by journalists who didn’t have the report of the scientists. “But if they had the report, they have a responsibility to inform the nation based on factual reporting.”

And [balanced] factual or accurate reporting would also include journalists not ignoring the human rights-based argument that the gay community invokes in defending their sexuality.

[Hat tip: Warren Throckmorton]

Is Ugandan President Looking For a Way Out of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill?

Jim Burroway

February 21st, 2014

As I wrote earlier, the political incentives weighing on Uganda President Yoweri Museveni to sign the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law are extraordinarily powerful. But Museveni can’t ignore the international cost of doing so, especially given Obama’s warning that signing the bill “would complicate (our) valued relationship.” That relationship includes, among many other things, U.S. technical military assistance in Uganda’s ongoing fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency.

Earlier today, Uganda’s Observer published a lengthy statement by Museveni defending his decision last weekend to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill on the basis of a statement by Ugandan scientists that homosexuality is “not genetic.” He then called on the U.S. to “help us by working with our Scientists to study whether, indeed, there are people who are born homosexual. When that is proved, we can review this legislation.”

Since then, that same identical statement has appeared in its entirety in all five major Ugandan publications with a web presence. In addition to the opposition-friendly Observer, the full statement is also being carried in the government-owned New Vision, the independent Daily Monitor, Uganda’s The Independent, and even in the notoriously anti-gay tabloid Red Pepper. The statement is dated last Sunday, February 18, but it’s being reprinted in full, virtually simultaneously, in all five publications today.

More typically, a government press office releases a statement and publications quote from this. The unusual detail is this: all five publications have reprinted Museveni’s entire statement in full. In my five years of watching events in Uganda, I cannot recall a any other time where all the major papers published an official statement verbatim on the same day. This represent a high degree of coordination at the very least, and it may possibly be the result of a direct order from the government. Museveni plainly wants everyone to see this.

And since he wants everyone to see it, I’ll include it here also:

Click here to read Museveni’s statement

Uganda President Seeks More Scientific Input on Homosexuality

Jim Burroway

February 21st, 2014

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni seems to be looking for a way out of the mess. A statement by Museveni appeared in Uganda’s Observer this morning justifying his previous announcement that he would sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill based on the “scientific” was provided to him by members of the Ministry of Health and Makarere University. Now, he says he needs more information:

I have now received their signed document, which says there is no single gene that has been traced to cause homosexuality.  What I want them to clarify is whether a combination of genes can cause anybody to be homosexual.  Then my task will be finished and I will sign the Bill.

After my statement to that effect which was quoted widely around the World, I got reactions from some friends from outside Africa.  Statements like: “it is a matter of choice” or “whom they love” which President Obama repeated in his statement would be most furiously rejected by almost the entirety of our people.

It cannot be a matter of choice for a man to behave like a woman or vice-versa.  The argument I had pushed was that there could be people who are born like that or “who they are”, according to President Obama’s statement.

I, therefore, encourage the US government to help us by working with our Scientists to study whether, indeed, there are people who are born homosexual.  When that is proved, we can review this legislation.

I would be among those who will spearhead that effort.  That is why I had refused to sign the Bill until my premise was knocked down by the position of our Scientists.

His statement also directly addresses President Barack Obama’s condemnation of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, in particular Obama’s warning that signing it would “complicate our valued relationship.” That particular line seems to have gotten his attention.

This statement would appear to contradict yesterday’s unconfirmed report that Museveni had already signed the bill.

Last Sunday, Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary, Ambassador James Mugume, told reporters that U.S. National Security Adviser would provide “some materials and evidence that they feel were left out by our scientists.” You can read Uganda’s “scientific statement” here.

LGBT Advocate Won’t Be Deported To Uganda

Jim Burroway

February 20th, 2014

Dr. Paul Semogoma being greeted by well-wishers following his release by South African immigration authorities. (Via Coalition of African Lesbians)

The South Africa-based Coalition of African Lesbians has posted on its Facebook page that South African immigration authorities have released LGBT/AIDS activist Dr. Paul Semugoma from custody and will not deport him back to Uganda. What’s more, CAR says that he now has a work permit which will allow him to remain in South Africa indefinitely.

Longtime BTB readers may remember him as the formerly-anonymous blogger GayUganda. He formally revealed his identity at the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., where he spoke passionately about the  challenges of confronting HIV/AIDS in a country where rampant homophobia makes it dangerous for LGBT people to disclose themselves to their doctors.

By then, he had already moved to South Africa where he had applied for residency. Yesterday, we learned that Semugoma had been detained by South African immigration authorities and was being held at OR Tambo Airport and pressured to board a flight to Uganda. He was detained as he was returning from a meeting in Zimbabwe.

If he had been forcibly returned to Uganda, he would have become dangerously subject to that nation’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The bill will not only further criminalize homosexuality with life imprisonment, but will also criminalize providing services to LGBT people or engaging in any advocacy on their behalf. This will make Dr. Semugoma a three-times criminal: he’s gay, he’s a doctor providing health care to LGBT people, and he’s an advocate.

Unconfirmed Reports: Museveni May Have Signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

February 20th, 2014

CNN’s Mike Krever quoted Ethics and Integrity Member (and defrocked former priest) Simon Lokodo:

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has just signed that bill, according to the minister, but has not yet handed it over to parliament.

It’s not clear to me whether Lokodo is much of an insider in Museveni’s government. He may be speaking out of personal knowledge, but he also may be working with second-hand information.  Meanwhile, the Uganda Media Centre, the president’s official press office, posted the following contradictory statement on its Facebook page earlier today:

Press Statement
February, 20, 2014

Government statement on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Following the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill by the Parliament of Uganda in December, 2013, fears have been expressed by sections of the international community that this could lead to the persecution of some sections of Ugandan society.

The 1995 Constitution is the supreme law of Uganda.

Article 21(1)… of the said Constitution states “All persons are equal before and under the law in all spheres of political, economic, social and cultural life and in every other respect and shall enjoy equal protection of the law.

Article 21(2) states “Without prejudice to clause (1) of this article, a person shall not be discriminated against on the grounds of sex, race, colour, ethnic origin, tribe, birth, creed or religion, social or economic standing, political opinion or disability.”
Government of Uganda reiterates its commitment to uphold and protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons in Uganda as guaranteed by the Constitution.

No person shall be prosecuted outside the provisions of the law.

Government of Uganda therefore reassures all Ugandans and the international community of its continued commitment and respect for the rule of law in Uganda.

Ofwono Opondo
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR/GOVERNMENT SPOKESPERSON
UGANDA MEDIA CENTRE

The Facebook comments to that post show that the statement is throwing everyone into confusion: Did he/will he sign the bill?

LGBT Advocate Faces Deportation To Uganda

Jim Burroway

February 19th, 2014

Longtime BTB readers may remember the formerly-anonymous blogger who went by the moniker GayUganda, Dr. Paul Semugoma. He formally revealed his identity in 2012 while in Washington D.C. for that year’s International AIDS Conference, where he spoke passionately about the  challenges of confronting HIV/AIDS in a country where rampant homophobia makes it dangerous for LGBT people to disclose themselves to their doctors. He had, by then, moved to South Africa where he had applied for residency.

Today, there are reports that he is currently in detention in South Africa and facing deportation back to Uganda. One source says that “despite a High Court order to stay the deportation, he was taken to airport, where he refused to leave voluntarily.”  Here is a full release from earlier in the day from South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign:

(19 FEBRUARY) Dr Paul Nsubuga Semugoma a Ugandan medical doctor and human rights activist has been under arrest for the past 48 hours and is facing the threat of deportation to his country of birth.
 
A group of South African human rights organisations are urgently attempting to halt his deportation as Paul is “wanted” in Uganda for his activism around lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues in his country.
 
Paul has been in the forefront with the Ugandan Parliament in fighting the Anti-homosexuality Bill, were he presented how the bill not only is a human rights infringement but also a health access dilemma to the Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) community. The human rights situation in Uganda has deteriorated, and the LGBT community is particularly vulnerable at this time.
 
Paul is at risk should he be deported to Uganda. 
One of his close friends David Kato was murdered in 2011 and he felt he was not so safe anymore and decided to move to South Africa with his partner where he has been a volunteer doctor at Anova Health Institute for the past three years, working specifically with MSM.
 
Paul’s special skills application has been pending since March 2012. His application was lost twice by the Department of Home Affairs, a case was lodged and he was requested to re-apply in which he did in April 2013 and again in August 2013. Paul was allowed to travel using his official passport and a receipt from the department. After several trips in and out of South Africa, Paul returned from a meeting in Zimbabwe earlier this week and was arrested.
 
Lawyers yesterday managed to get a court order to halt the threatened deportation and to order his release. However last night  immigration officials unlawfully refused to release him. As a result his lawyers are returning to the South Gauteng High Courttoday to secure another order for his release.
 
Activists will gather at the court today in support of Paul’s release.
 
THIS STATEMENT IS RELEASED UNDER THE BANNER OF THE SA NATIONAL AIDS COUNCIL CIVIL SOCIETY SECTOR, TREATMENT ACTION CAMPAIGN, SONKE GENDER JUSTICE, ANOVA HEALTH INSTITUTE, COALITION OF AFRICAN LESBIANS and SECTION 27

More from AVAC: Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention:

Thank you for the rapid outpouring of support! A couple of actions you can take:

  • Social media campaigns are being organized using the social media hashtags #JusticeforPaulSemugoma and #freepaul. We encourage you to help raise the profile of the situation on Facebook, Twitter, and with any relevant media contacts.
  •  The Coalition of African Lesbians is encouraging partners to contact some of the officials with jurisdiction over the situation. Visit: https://www.facebook.com/CoalitionCAL for more information.
  • For those based in Johannesburg, 2014 AVAC Fellow Yvette Raphael wrote in about a protest that is being organized at OR Tambo International Airport. Contact Yvette at yvetteraphael8@gmail.com for more information.

The Ugandan Parliament has passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would not only further criminalize homosexuality with life imprisonment, but would also criminalize providing services to LGBT people or engaging in any advocacy on their behalf. President Yoweri Museveni has announced that he will sign that bill into law. This will make Dr. Semugoma a three-times criminal: he’s gay, he’s a doctor providing health care to LGBT people, and he’s an advocate.

Ugandan TV: Canada Threatens to Cut Ties

Jim Burroway

February 19th, 2014
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NTV Uganda reports:

The Canadian government has threatened to cut diplomatic ties with Uganda if the Anti Homosexuality bill is signed into law. Ugandan Ambassador Alintuma Nsambu says he was summoned on Monday by the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister to explain why Canada should not take that step. Nsambu says if signed, several western countries could isolate Uganda.

Ugandan Singer Criticizes Anti-Homosexualty Bill, Tabloid Retaliates

Jim Burroway

February 18th, 2014

Remember back at a time when, if anyone were to stand up for gay people, they would be accused of being gay themselves? It’s been a long time since that’s been a common occurrence here in the U.S., although I’m sure it still happens. In Uganda, however, it happens in the papers. The tabloid, Red Pepper, which has a long history of dangerous anti-gay “outings,” has taken that tactic when a popular singer, Keko, criticized President Yoweri Museveni’s announcement that he will sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Red Pepper says Keko took to social media saying, “If Sevo signs the anti-homosexuality bill, we are always going to be third world. Development is tolerance.” And then promptly “outed” her:

“Keko was seen comfortably seated with Sheeba Kalungi,” says Red Pepper

For over the years it has been rumored that female rapper Keko is a lesbian.

It has been claimed that the singer is in a gay relationship with fellow singer Sheeba Karungi, and actually stay together in a rented apartment in Kiwatule.

Neither of the two has ever denied the allegations. And now Keko has almost confirmed these allegations by blasting the president over the anti gay bill.

I put “outed” in quotes because I know nothing about Keko. I have no idea whether she’s gay, straight, or anywhere in-between. While I can understand that for the sake of visibility, that kind of detail would matter. But in a country like Uganda, that’s a first world luxury that gay people can’t afford. Here, the retaliation isn’t in the “outing,” but something far more sinister where being called a lesbian is an accusation of criminal activity rather than just a description of someone’s romantic leanings.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill will criminalize all advocacy by or on behalf of LGBT people with five to seven years’ imprisonment. Any day now, Keko’s tweet may become a criminal offense. But until that day comes when official sanctions can be applied, rags like the Red Pepper will be happy to provide plenty of unofficial sanctions.

Ugandan Press Secretary: Museveni “Cannot Be Intimidated”

Jim Burroway

February 18th, 2014
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In the above clip from NTV Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni’s press secretary Tamale Mirundi responds to US President Barack Obama’s statement blasting Museveni for agreeing to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Mirundi tells reporters that Museveni “cannot be intimidated.” On the question of foreign aid, Mirundi said, “we can do without that aid.”

Report: US to Provide “Further Evidence” to Counter Uganda’s “Scientific Report” on Homosexuality

Jim Burroway

February 18th, 2014

 

National Security Adviser Susan Rice’s Tweeted on Sunday saying, she “Spoke at length with President Museveni last night to urge him not to sign anti-LGBT bill.” In a following Tweet, she echoed Obama’s statement, adding: “Told him it will be huge step backward for Uganda and the world.” Uganda’s independent Daily Monitor this morning provided some additional information on that conversation:

Barely 24 hours after his Kyankwanzi pronouncement, the President was already facing the “battle” with the American National Security Adviser, Ms Susan Rice, calling Mr Museveni to express her government’s and Mr Obama’s reservations on the matter.

According to the Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary, Ambassador James Mugume, the Americans had called to offer “further evidence” that homosexuality is a natural behaviour in contradiction with what the local scientists had presented.

“We are discussing with the US government. We are waiting to see what they have [to present]. I am told that the Americans have some materials and evidence that they feel were left out by our scientists,” Mr Mugume said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Asked when the US was scheduled to table the said evidence, Ambassador Mugume could not give a clear time-line, only saying: “It will not take a lot of time. It will be soon.”

You can read Uganda’s “scientific report” here.

Video: “We Shall Have a War With the Homosexual Lobby of the World”

Jim Burroway

February 16th, 2014

Uganda’s NTV has posted video of President Yoweri Museveni’s announcement that he will sign the Anti-Homosexualty Bill at his ruling party caucus this weekend in Kyankwanzi.

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There’s more in this broadcast of the program NTV at ONE. Skip ahead to the 25:39 mark:

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Why Did Uganda’s President Turn on Anti-Homosexuality Bill?

Jim Burroway

February 16th, 2014

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni

That’s the political question being asked today. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is very well aware of the hit he’ll be taking internationally by giving his assent to the draconian legislation. A few months after the bill’s 2009 introduction amid international outcry, 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. When the bill passed last December, Museveni lashed out at House Speaker Rebecca Kadaga for rushing it through without a quorum, and just four weeks ago he 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.

So why the turnaround? A Ugandan opposition paper thinks it’s purely a matter of domestic political calculations:

The Observer Editor Richard M Kavuma believes the president may have been guided by political calculations. Because he was keen to win over MPs on key issues such as denying suspects bail on certain offences, Kavuma said, the president may have decided to sign the popular bill as a concession.

“But it is also true that some of the president’s people may challenge the legislation in court and given Uganda’s largely progressive Constitution, they may get the bill declared unconstitutional,” Kavuma said.

“That way the president comes out looking good to his anti-gay electorate, while the judges will take the flak from Uganda’s generally Christian conservative population.”

Kavuma added: “Because the law is likely to fail anyway, the president may have found the political cost of signing the bill to be much lower than that of maintaining his locally ‘anti-people’ stance.  On the contrary, he will be praised across churches, shrines and mosques if he signs the bill.”

According to this analysis, there’s virtually no political cost in the short term domestically, and, if it plays out in court the way Kavuma believes, there’s no long term political cost either. In other words, it’s the most cynical plan conceivable. Nobody loses, except of course Uganda’s LGBT citizens, who don’t count in this calculation anyway.

The Observer also notes that Museveni’s announcement, made at a ruling party caucus this weekend, may have been aimed at tamping down internal challengers who may themselves have presidential aspirations. Museveni is all but assured to announce his run for re-election in 2016, when he will have already spent some thirty years as the country’s leader following a 1986 civil war.

Obama: Anti-Homosexuality Bill “Will Complicate Our Valued Relationship With Uganda”

Jim Burroway

February 16th, 2014

The WHite House has issued this statement by President Barack Obama on Uganda’s pending adoption of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill:

As a country and a people, the United States has consistently stood for the protection of fundamental freedoms and universal human rights. We believe that people everywhere should be treated equally, with dignity and respect, and that they should have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, no matter who they are or whom they love.

That is why I am so deeply disappointed that Uganda will shortly enact legislation that would criminalize homosexuality. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, once law, will be more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda. It will be a step backward for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people. It also will mark a serious setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice and equal rights.

As we have conveyed to President Museveni, enacting this legislation will complicate our valued relationship with Uganda. At a time when, tragically, we are seeing an increase in reports of violence and harassment targeting members of the LGBT community from Russia to Nigeria, I salute all those in Uganda and around the world who remain committed to respecting the human rights and fundamental human dignity of all persons.

Ugandan Pro-Government Newspaper: “Uganda Scientists Turn Homosexuality Debate Around”

Jim Burroway

February 15th, 2014

New Vision, the government-owned newspaper, has weighed in on President Yoweri Museveni’s announcement that he will sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law by posting on its web site the press release from the NRM ruling party caucus spokesperson:

PRESENTATION BY A TEAM OF SCIENTISTS FROM MOH AND MAKERERE UNIVERSITY ON HOMOSEXUALITY AND GENETICS IN HUMANS

A Ministerial Committee comprising of scientists from MOH and Makerere University was set up to study homosexuality and genetics in human beings and advise the President and the NRM Caucus on the subject of homosexuality.

The committee comprised of;

- Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng – Director General of Health Services

- Dr. Isaac Ezati – Director Planning and Development at MOH

- Dr. Jacinto Amandua – Commissioner Clinical Services

- Dr. Sheila Ndyanabangi – Head, Mental Health Desk

- Prof. Seggane Musisi – Professor of Psychiatry at Makerere

- Assoc. Prof. Eugene Kinyanda – Senior Research Scientist, Medical Research Council

- Dr. David Basangwa – Director, Butabika Hospital

- Dr. Sylvester Onzivua – Senior Pathologist, Mulago Hospital

- Dr. Misaki Wayengera – Geneticist, Makerere

- Dr. Paul Bangirana – Clinical Psychologist, Makerere

- Prof. Wilson Byarugaba – Rtd. Professor and former Head of Human and Molecular Genetics, Dept of Pathology, Makerere

Two medical Parliamentarians names; Dr. Chris Baryomunsi and Dr. Medard Bitekerezo also presented a report whose findings and conclusions concurred with that of the Ministerial Committee.

The following were their observations;

1. There is no definitive gene responsible for homosexuality.

2. Homosexuality is not a disease but merely an abnormal behavior which may be learned through experiences in life.

3. In every society, there is a small number of people with homosexuality tendencies.

4. Homosexuality can be influenced by environmental factors e.g. culture, religion and peer pressure among others.

5. The practice needs regulation like any other human behavior especially to protect the vulnerable.

6. There is need for further studies to address sexuality in the African context.

Presidential Advisor on Science Dr. Richard Tushemereirwe stated that homosexuality has serious Public Health consequences and should therefore not be tolerated.

H.E. the President then made it clear that his work was done and that all he needed was for the Scientists to sign the paper they presented since it would be a historical document forming basis for the signing of the Bill.

H.E. also declared that he would sign the Bill since the question of whether one can be born a homosexual or not had been answered.

The President emphasized that Promoters, exhibitionists and those who practice homosexuality for Mercenary reasons will not be tolerated and will therefore be dealt with harshly.

Hon. Anite Evelyn

NRM Caucus Spokes person

[All emphases in the original]

You can read the full report here.

Uganda TV Airs MPs’ Reactions to Museveni’s Promise to Sign Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

February 15th, 2014
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Reactions include that from M.P. David Bahati, who sponsored the legislation in Parliament.

Well, the scientists’ conclusion is very clear that homosexuality is not a disease, that it is not an abnormality, there is no definitive … gene that is responsible for homosexuality.

You can read the “scientists’ conclusion” here.

 

Ugandan “Scientific Statement on Homosexuality” Surfaces

Jim Burroway

February 15th, 2014

Ugandan Ministry of Health’s “Scientific Statement on Homosexuality”, dated February 10, 2014. Click to download (PDF: 2MB/12 pages).

Warren Throckmorton has obtained a copy of the Ugandan Ministry of Health’s “Scientific Statement on Homosexuality.” He has also posted a Uganda State House press release announcing President Yoweri Museveni’s intention of giving his assent to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that was passed by Parliament last December without a proper quorum.

Soon after Parliament acted, Museveni scolded Speaker Rebecca Kadaga in a letter for rushing to pass the bill, saying that it was important to find a “scientifically correct solution.” He then ordered a local team of doctors to report back to him on whether homosexuality was genetic. This question appears to be the sole factor in Museveni’s mind on the question of whether people are “born gay,” to the exclusion of very broad range of identified biological, non-genetic factors which have surfaced in the scientific literature over the past three decades. The “Scientific Statement” provided by local doctors barely scratches the surface of the genetic question before dismissing it. It does not explore the many studies addressing laterality, brain structures, pre-natal hormones, maternal immunological responses, etc., which suggest multiple and varying biological foundations for homosexuality later in life. The report however states:

Ultimately, all sexual functions are determined by genes and their interactions with the environment. Thus the causes of homosexuality can be traced to biological, social, environmental, psychological or a combination of them. These influence each other. Reparative therapies to change people’s sexual practices have not proven successful and their scientific validity has remained questionable.

The report then goes on to dedicate more than two pages to the question of whether homosexuality can be “learned or unlearned.” That section again reiterates, “The conclusion from the current body of scientific evidence is that there is no single gene responsible for homosexuality and there is no anatomical or physiological data that can fully explain its occurrence.”

This is true, if one were to expect there to be a single point explanation to explain every individual’s sexuality. In fact, researchers are studying the question from the basis of multiple potential factors, and they uniformly dismiss that fallacy outright. What the hundreds of studies identifying multiple biological foundations for homosexuality suggest is that there are multiple pathways to different expressions of sexuality, and some of those pathways or combinations of pathways may be present in some individuals, while other individuals may be the product of other factors, including different biological factors. In other words, there appears to be multiple biological foundations, rather than a single, clean explanation for homosexuality for every individual. This report fails to recognize the complexity of the question that is recognized in virtually every piece of published research on the subject.

Instead, the report dismisses known biological and physiological data and devotes considerable space in identifying what it contends to be environmental factors in the development of homosexuality:

Psychosocial causes of homosexuality imply that it may be learned through experiences in life. Previous disastrous heterosexual encounters (e.g. erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation) may lead to aversion towards homosexual intercourse. A chance homosexual encounter in early life may be associated with sexual pleasure leading to homosexual relationships being associated with pleasure. The increasing influence of Western culture provides homosexuality as a choice one can make, it’s therefore seen as a socially acceptable option for a few. In conclusion, homosexual tendencies can be taken up based on the person’s judgement on what is pleasurable for them. Why this happens to some people is  not clear, Whereas some homosexuals may take up the behaviour as an open choice, for others it may be due to indoctrination, In summary, homosexuality has no clear cut cause, several factors are involved which differ from individual to individual. It is not a disease that has a treatment. [Emphasis in the original]

The report states that “the essence of homosexuality would be an antithesis for the Darwinian evolution of sex in species largely because homosexuality does not offer an opportunity for the self-propagation of the species,” a common argument posed by anti-gay activists. It continues:

This has been a critical and fundamental argument by some scholars against the non-genetic basis of homosexuality, However, the counterargument has been for group survival, that some individuals in a group not overburdened by reproduction responsibilities would be available to give a hand to weak members of the group (e.g, the elderly and children) as happens in social animals. In our view, at least from existing knowledge and literature, there is no basis for a single, definitive structural genetic basis of homosexuality.

That said, the influence of the largely unstudied processes of epigenetics — which involves non-structural modifications of the genetic code, and represent one of the ways by which we learn many of our acquired traits that we can even pass on to our off-springs, cannot be ruled out.

The report then concludes with an argument for “the need to regulate sexualities”:

Throughout the world, human activity is regulated to ‘safeguard citizens, especially the weak and vulnerable, against the dangers inherent in human activities. Thus human sexuality also needs to be regulated especially as it is the core of the family and hence the nation. At anyone time rules and regulations are based on the current prevailing knowledge and understanding of what is to be regulated. This knowledge and understanding may change depending on the times and circumstances. Today the world has come to the realization that indeed homosexuality is a minority sexual expression practiced by some few members of the community. But, like heterosexuality, it needs to be regulated. No country, in the world today, has come up with a successful way to regulate human sexuality, hence the daily scandals and rapes of this world including sexual and gender based violence or human trafficking for sex. That vulnerable populations (including children, minorities, refugees, the poor, the elderly, mentally ill etc) need to be protected against sexual (and other) exploitations is not in question. African cultures had contained sexual vices. May be we need to revisit them to contain the present explosion of overt and coercive homosexual activity with the exploitation of our young children.

This report appears to have given Museveni the justification he feels he needs to give his assent to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.  According to the press release from State House, Museveni spoke on the decision before the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) caucus “amidst ululations and clapping by NRM members of parliament”:

The President emphasized that this is a job for the scientists before reading out a letter from USA scientist about the same debate. (Letter from US scientists to be sent to the media ASAP) “The authorities are these ones, the University Medical School and medical authorities. And since they have put this in writing…me my job is finished. The most important thing is on the three where there is no debate. On the promotion/recruitment of homosexuals no debate; mercenary homosexuals no debate and exhibitionism not debate. Leadership is not a joke. Don’t just sit there because somebody is calling you Your Excellency, Honourable and you think you are a God. You are just a servant and a servant does his best to do the right thing. That is why I want a scientific answer not a political answer. Let the scientists answer this. And according to the way they have answered it, if they mislead us they are the ones who are responsible,” he said.

A final draft of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has not been publicly released. According to multiple reports when the bill was passed by Parliament last December, 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, officiating a same-sex wedding ceremony, or advocated for or on behalf of LGBT people. Museveni has also reportedly told his caucus that he supports a constitutional revision to prevent suspects charged under the nation’s sodomy laws from being released on bail before trial.

Update: You can read the NRM’s press release about the report here.

Uganda President Supports Changing the Constitution to Scrap Bail for Sodomy

Jim Burroway

February 14th, 2014

On the heels of reports that Uganda President Yoweri Museveni intends to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law comes more distressing news that Museveni also supports a change to the Uganda Constitution to allow holding people suspected of breaking that nation’s antiquated anti-sodomy laws in jail without bail:

The ruling party majority yesterday resolved to back President Museveni’s proposal to deny bail for sodomy suspects, defilers and rapists and tasked Ministry of Justice to expedite the process of amending the Constitution to that effect.

Mr Museveni, in a renewed call for the scrapping of the bail window for suspects in capital offences, told the NRM Caucus retreat in Kyankwanzi that the status-quo is encouraging crime in the country.

While corruption is not part of President’s list of targeted offences, sources told the Daily Monitor that “sodomy” was included at the behest of MPs who told their party leader that it has become such an “insidious” problem in the country.

…Caucus spokesperson Evelyn Anite confirmed the latest developments to the Daily Monitor that the Ministry of Justice was tasked to kick-start the process amid cheers from the ruling party members. “The President had proposed that bail must be denied to those who rape and defile others and MPs amended it to include those that sodomise others. The proposal was overwhelmingly supported,” said Ms Anite.

It would appear that Museveni is angling to out-populist the populist Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadagga, an early supporter of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill who shepherded it through Parliament last December. She is reported to have ambitions for Museveni’s job in 2016.

Spokesman: Uganda President to Sign Anti-Homosexuality Bill into Law

Jim Burroway

February 14th, 2014

This news comes by way of J. Lester Feder at Buzzfeed:

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.

Google Doodles the Rainbow for Sochi

Jim Burroway

February 6th, 2014

If you go to the Google search page, you’ll see this Google Doodle in place of Google’s logo in honor of the Sochi Olympics, which officially opens tomorrow. In case anyone somehow misses Google’s message in the graphic, they helpfully quote from the Olympi charter:

 The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” –Olympic Charter

This appears to be going on Google’s pages worldwide, including such anti-gay hot spots as Uganda, Nigeria, Cameroon, GhanaJamaica, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and, most importantly right now, Russia, where Google is likely violating that country’s “anti-propaganda” law.

 
Meanwhile, Britain’s Channel 4 is rebranding its during the duration of the Olympics by dressing its logo in Rainbow colors. And tomorrow, just as the opening ceremonies air on BBC2, Channel 4 will counter with the television debut of its “Gay Mountain” ad campaign:

The tongue-in-cheek ad, which will run for a week, features a “bear” cabaret act singing a song which features lyrics including “good luck gays, on gay mountain”. Using a play on the term “out”, denoting when a person declares publicly that they are gay, the TV ad runs with the strapline “good luck to everyone out in Sochi”.

“This is a typically Channel 4 way of celebrating the start of the Winter Games and showing our support to all of the athletes out in Sochi, gay or straight,” said the Channel 4 chief marketing and communications officer, Dan Brooke.

Something tells me you’re not gonna see anything like this on NBC:

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Human Rights Activists: Ugandan President Pledges to Reject “Fascist” Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

January 18th, 2014

The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights issued a press release saying that a delegation met with Uganda President Yoweri Museveni to discuss the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. This meeting follows a letter written by the center’s president Kerry Kennedy and retired South African Archbishop Desmund Tutu asking for a meeting. The meeting happened today in Entebbe:

The delegation – comprised of Ms. Kennedy, Santiago A. Canton, Director of RFK Partners for Human Rights, and Wade McMullen, Staff Attorney for the RFK Center – expressed their grave concern over the legislation that would further criminalize homosexual conduct, censor freedom of expression, and ban civil society organizations working on LGBTI issues in Uganda. Archbishop Desmond Tutu who joined the conversation via telephone similarly expressed his concern, stating the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was reminiscent of oppressive laws passed under apartheid in South Africa.

President Museveni pledged to reject the bill as currently drafted, calling the legislation “fascist.” The President stated that he will consult with his party and plans to introduce a new piece of legislation aimed at protecting minors from being coerced into sexual activity.

The RFK Center reiterated that the government should focus on enforcing the Ugandan Penal Code provisions that already outlaw both opposite-sex and same-sex sexual abuse of minors. Should new legislation be introduced along the lines of the President’s suggestion, the RFK Center strongly advised that any bill should only focus on strengthening current child protection measures, may not discriminate against individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and must fully respect the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association.

“I welcome President Museveni’s decision to reject this hateful bill,” said Archbishop Tutu. “It is time for our African brothers and sisters to move past the antiquated notion that someone could be a criminal for who they love.”

If Museveni holds to his promise, this would be welcome news. A news report yesterday erroneously suggested that Museveni had already pledged in a letter dated December 28to refuse to assent to the Anti-Homosexuality bill passed by Parliament a week earlier. Once the full contents of that letter became available, it became clear that Museveni had not made any such pledge at that time.

The letter also dwelled extensively on fears that individuals were being “recruited” into homosexuality by economic incentives. That concern, rather than child sexual abuse specifically, may be behind his motivation for new legislation, as pedophilia is often conflated with homosexuality in Uganda, as it is elsewhere in anti-gay circles. Museveni’s desire for new legislation bears watching, and it’s good that the RFK Center reminded him that the Uganda Penal Code’s provisions against child sexual abuse are already gender neutral.

Museveni has said that he will bring the Anti-Homosexuality Bill up before his ruling party’s caucus for further discussion. There’s no word yet on when those discussions will take place.

In 2011, the RFK Center honored Ugandan LGBT advocate Frank Mugisha with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.

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