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“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for February, 2014

World Bank Delays $90 Million Loan to Uganda

Jim Burroway

February 28th, 2014

The World Bank yesterday announced that it was delaying a US$90 million loan to Uganda’s health system, citing the country’s draconian new Anti-Homosexuality Act that President Yoweri Museveni signed into law on Monday.

We have postponed the project for further review to ensure that the development objectives would not be adversely affected by the enactment of this new law,” World Bank spokesman David Theis said in an email.

…The World Bank, a poverty-fighting institution based in Washington, usually refrains from getting involved in countries’ internal politics or in issues such as gay rights to avoid antagonising any of its 188 member countries.

World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, however, sent an email to bank staff saying the bank opposes discrimination, and would protect the safety of all employees.

He said passage of the Ugandan law was not an isolated incident, as 83 countries outlaw homosexuality and more than 100 discriminate against women.

“In the coming months, we will have a broad discussion about discrimination with staff, management, and our board on these issues,” Kim said in the email. “Now is the right moment for this conversation.”

The bank’s executive board was set to approve the loan today. The $90 million loan is part of a larger $1.56 billion portfolio the bank has with Uganda. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim wrote an op-ed discussing the broader problems of discrimination of all kinds around the world and how that played into his decision:

These recent anti-gay laws, and many others that have been on the books for years, are acutely ironic. Just 15 years ago, a small band of gay men and women — largely in the United States but also in Europe and parts of Africa — fought with all their intellect, energy and creativity to expand access to treatment for all people with HIV/AIDS. In 2000, just 50,000 people in the developing world received AIDS treatment. Today, largely thanks to the work of these gay activists and others, more than 10 million people are being treated with AIDS drugs — most of them African.

At the World Bank Group, we will have a full internal discussion over the coming months about discrimination more broadly and how it would affect our projects and our gay and lesbian staff members. My view is that the fight to eliminate all institutionalized discrimination is an urgent task.

Norway, Demark and the Netherlands announced this week that they are cutting a combined US$27 million in aid to the Ugandan government. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the State Department is currently reviewing its relationship with Uganda. The U.S. currently gives more that $486 million in bilateral aid.

Meanwhile, Museveni is seeking alternative benefactors. He may find one in Russia:

President Museveni has said he will work with Russians because they don’t meddle in the internal affairs of other countries. …[W]hile commissioning a new flight simulator at the air force headquarters in Entebbe on Friday, Mr Museveni told Obama to stop interfering in the affairs of Uganda, adding he will work with Russia instead of America. “Russia has worked in Africa since 1917, meaning they have been here for more than 100 years. I want to work with Russia because they don’t mix up their politics with other country’s politics,” Mr Museveni said.

VIDEO: Ugandan TV Covers the Five Year History of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

February 25th, 2014
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VIDEO: Museveni Speaks To Reporters After Signing Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

February 24th, 2014
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You can see the live signing beginning at about the 53:00 minute mark. You can read President Yoweri Museveni’s prepared remarks here, although he made several significant departures from his prepared remarks from time to time. At one point, he asked his scientists to introduce themselves individually.

Museveni’s Full Speech At the Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s Signing Ceremony

Jim Burroway

February 24th, 2014

Daily Monitor just published it moments ago:

It seems the topic of homosexuals was provoked by the arrogant and careless Western groups that are fond of coming into our schools and recruiting young children into homosexuality and lesbianism, just as they carelessly handle other issues concerning Africa.

Initially, I did not pay much attention to it because I was busy with the immediate issues of defense, security, electricity, the roads, the railways, factories, modernization of agriculture, etc.

When, eventually, I concentrated my mind on it, 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.

Since Western societies do not appreciate politeness, let me take this opportunity to warn our people publicly about the wrong practices indulged in and promoted by some of the outsiders.

One of them is “oral sex”. Our youth should reject this because God designed the human being most appropriately for pleasurable, sustainable and healthy sex. Some of the traditional styles are very pleasurable and healthy. The mouth is not engineered for that purpose except kissing. Besides, it is very unhealthy. People can even contract gonorrhea of the mouth and throat on account of so-called “oral sex”, not to mention worms, hepatitis E, etc.

The Ministry of Gender and Youth should de-campaign this buyayism imported from outside and sensitize the youth about the healthy life style that is abundant in our cultures.

We reject the notion that somebody can be homosexual by choice; that a man can choose to love a fellow man; that sexual orientation is a matter of choice. Since my original thesis that there may be people who are born homosexual has been disproved by science, then the homosexuals have lost the argument in Uganda.

They should rehabilitate themselves and society should assist them to do so.

Museveni Signs Anti-Homosexuality Bill Into Law

Jim Burroway

February 24th, 2014

As announced late last night, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law in a ceremony at State House in Entebbe earlier this morning. He signed the bill into law at about 1:50 p.m. East Africa Time (5:50 a.m. E.S.T). It is highly unusual for Museveni to sign a bill publicly, but

The president was in combative mood in a speech after the signing and while answering questions from journalists. He suggested that the law was made necessary by arrogant western groups promoting a behaviour that threatens Ugandans’ “way of life”.

…The president suggested he could not to understand how men could fail to be attracted to Uganda’s beautiful women and, instead, get attracted to fellow men.

The president also paraded the mostly Ugandan scientists who concluded that homosexuality wasn’t generic. The signing is expected to attract more attention and reaction from human rights defenders and the Western world, who have consistently been against the president’s assent since the bill was passed by Parliament in December 2013.

The bill will formally becomes law when it is published in the Uganda Gazette. That will also be the first time we will be able to get an official look at the bill’s final form. You can see the bill’s original form here. The bill originally included the death penalty for anyone convicted of “aggravated homosexuality,” which includes sex with minors, sex while HIV-positive (regardless of informed consent), incest, sex while being “a person of authority over the person”, sex with a disabled person (regardless of consent, or being a “serial offender”, of any other part of the bill. When Parliament passed the bill in December, the death penalty was dropped in favor of lifetime imprisonment.

Other provisions remaining in the bill include lifetime imprisonment for entering into a same-sex marriage, seven years for conducting one, five to seven years for advocacy by or on behalf of LGBT people, five years for providing housing to LGBT people, and seven years for providing services to LGBT people.

Last weekend, President Barack Obama said that signing the bill “will be a step backward for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people.” He also warned that “enacting this legislation will complicate our valued relationship with Uganda.” During today’s signing ceremony, Museveni dismissed that warning:

On the issue of losing aid by signing the bill, President Museveni, quoting the story of Esau in the bible said that Uganda will not give up their rights because of food like Esau did. He then took the chance to remind the gathering that Uganda does not need aid. “Uganda is very rich, we do not need the aid,” He said.

Spokesman: Uganda President to Sign Anti-Homosexuality Bill Monday Morning

Jim Burroway

February 23rd, 2014

Moments ago, Uganda’s governmental spokesman Ofwono Opondo tweeted that President Yoweri Museveni will sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill at 11:00 a.m. Monday Morning at State House in Entebbe (3:00 a.m. E.S.T). The Tweet went out at about 6:50 a.m. Monday morning local time in Uganda, or 10:50 Sunday night E.S.T. He then quickly followed that with two more tweets taunting President Obama:

Obama has labeled the Ant-Homosexuality Bill “odious” and warned that signing the bill  “would complicate (our) valued relationship.”

As for the Arizona bill which has not been signed into law, not one person would be thrown in jail for as much as an hour if Gov. Jan Brewer made the insane decision to sign it. Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill however will impose a lifetime sentence in prison for conviction of homoseuxality, lifetime imprisonment for entering into a same-sex marriage, seven years for conducting one, five to seven years for advocacy by or on behalf of LGBT people, five years for providing housing to LGBT people, and seven years for providing services to LGBT people.

If Museveni follows through with signing the bill Monday morning, it will occur exactly five years to the very day after BTB first learned that Scott Lively and two other American ant-gay activists were about to conduct one of the most infamous and far-reaching  anti-gay conferences in memory. Lively would later boast that his talk at that conference was a “nuclear bomb against the gay agenda.”

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.

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?

Museveni’s Political Calculus and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

February 20th, 2014
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NTV Uganda recaps events since President Yoweri Museveni’s announcement that he will sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and reports that about 20% of Uganda’s budget is funded by donor money. In response to statements from donor countries that their aid would be jeopardized by the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, State Minister for Regional Affairs Asuman Kiyingi said, “What I’ve heard from the public… is that Ugandans are willing to forfeit the support that the donors are giving if it means that the support is conditioned on sacrificing their values. But I’m sure we’re going to find a middle ground.”

Kiyingi’s belief that there will be a “middle ground” with respect to foreign aid suggests that Museveni feels more confident that he won’t suffer severe international consequences if he signs the bill. Uganda has raised its strategic profile in the past couple of years, well-positoned geographically and sharing borders with Rwanda, Congo and Southern Sudan. Uganda provides peacekeeping (and sometimes not so peacekeeping) troops to Southern Sudan and Somalia, and regularly meddles in guerrilla fighting in Congo. Uganda is also central to that battle against the murderous Lord’s Resistance Army, and it receives a great deal of military technical assistance from the U.S. in that fight. This morning, Daily Monitor’s Daniel K. Kalinaki explains what all of that means:

Museveni also understands the centres of power in America. The White House and the State Department might be critical of him and his decisions but he has been around long enough to understand that the CIA and the Defence Department often deal in the cold rational reality of real-politick.

Thus while cuts in military support to the UPDF would hurt, there would be grave concerns for the Pentagon if Uganda were to withdraw its troops from Somalia, for instance. Museveni understands that US national security comes first, ahead of everything else. As long as he is willing to put boots on the ground to keep the regional peace and support the war against terror, he will always have friends at the Pentagon willing to help him manage his relations with the State Department.

There are also a number of internal political considerations that likely went into Museveni’s decision. Again, Kalinaki:

It is telling that President Museveni announced his intentions at a meeting of NRM MPs amidst a plot to endorse him as the sole party candidate for the 2016 elections. In signing, he gives the MPs a blank cheque. Having forced Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi on the defensive, he also cuts from underneath Speaker Rebecca Kadaga one of her populist planks within Parliament.

Mbabazi and Kadaga both were believed to be vying to challenge Museveni for the party’s nomination in 2016. This moves places Mbabazi on the defensive because he was the most vocal in pointing out that Parliament passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill without a quorum. At the time, Mbabazi appeared to be speaking for Museveni, since Museveni himself had argued against the bill’s passage, and complained about the lack of quorum Speaker Kadaga in a letter written a week after the bill’s passage. Museveni’s sudden U-turn left Mbabazi stranded out on a very weak political limb. At the same time, Kadaga, who sought to build her political legacy on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, is now seeing the oxygen being sucked out of the room with Museveni’s announcement. Mbabazi signed on to endorse Museveni’s 2016 bid, but Kadaga didn’t.

Kalinaki also points out that the political costs for signing the bill are minimal when compared to the benefits:

First, he is exercising power without responsibility for his actions; he is signing a Bill he never wanted, passed by Parliament against his advice, and on the recommendation of scientists. It wasn’t me, he could easily say. Secondly, Museveni must surely know that several lawyers have lined up to challenge the constitutionality of the law; one of them, your columnist hears, is Mr Fox Odoi, who spent many years doing legal work for the President and remains close to the inner circle.

Such a challenge would hold up the law in the courts for at least a couple of years. If the courts uphold it, it wasn’t me, the President would say. If they strike it down, it still wasn’t him. Throw in a few more years on appeal in the Supreme Court and you have a Bill all dressed up with nowhere to go.

A man like Museveni doesn’t stay in power for twenty-eight years as he has without either brute force or cynical cunning. Museveni prefers the latter but isn’t afraid of the former. It is, after all, how he came to power in the first place. So the question now is whether Museveni was correct in minimizing the political costs to signing the bill or did he misjudge? The Human Rights Campaign’s Chad Griffin wants the U.S. to up the political costs to Museveni. He has called on the U.S. to withdraw its ambassadors to Uganda and Nigeria, which recently recently enacted similarly draconian anti-gay legislation:

“The Ugandan and Nigerian governments’ decisions to treat their LGBT citizens like criminals cannot be accepted as business as usual by the U.S. government. We urge Secretary Kerry to recall both Ambassadors for consultations in Washington to make clear the seriousness of the situation in both countries,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.

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.

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.

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