A spokesperson for Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has announced via Twitter that Museveni has decided to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, despite his initial objections to its rushed vote.
The bill was originally known colloquially as the “Kill The Gays” bill for its inclusion of the death penalty as a punishment; though it was revised, the version Museveni is set to sign puts “repeat offenders” at risk of life in prison.
Gay Star News reported that the spokesman, Ofwono Opondo, said in a series of tweets,
Pres Museveni has told NRM MPs he will assent the anti-homosexuality bill into law.
This comes after 14 medical experts presented a report that homosexuality is not genetic but a social behavior.
The NRM Caucus has welcomed the development as a measure to protect Ugandans from social deviants.
Ugandan traditionalists, religious leaders and politicians have been urging Museveni to sign the bill.
The news comes just a day after Museveni proposed denying bail to anyone accused of homosexual sex, thus keeping them imprisoned until their trial—thereby legally treating them like suspected rapists.
According to Ugandan newspaper The Daily Monitor, Museveni said, “I do not know why the Judiciary is giving bail to every suspect. There is bail to everybody, including the core criminals. We shall do legislation as politicians about this law to determine the categories of suspects supposed to be granted bail.”
On February 13, member of parliament Fox Odoi wrote to Museveni urging that he veto the bill; in the letter, which was leaked to local media, Odoi said he consulted with an unnamed law firm, which analyzed the bill and said they believe it is unconstitutional.
According to Gay Star News, the legal experts Odoi spoke to said the bill violates article 21 of the constitution for legislating homosexual behavior but not heterosexual, a clear case of discrimination and inequality. They also cited the bill’s ban of “promoting” homosexuality as a violation of freedom of expression, association, and conscience.
Like others, Museveni included, they also pointed out that the bill was passed without the minimum number of politicians required to be present at the vote.
Ugandan culture as a whole is extremely homophobic; in 2010 Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the American magazine of the same name) published a front-page article titled “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak”; alongside each photograph was the name and address of the person, and printed next to the article was a banner reading “Hang Them.” A later issue had the headline “Homo Generals Plotted Kampala Terror Attacks,” claiming that the LGBT community had connections with the militant group al-Shabaab.
Activists reported an immediate increase in physical and verbal harassment against those perceived as LGBT, especially the people called out in the articles. Three of those so named sued, resulting in the Ugandan High Court later ordered the tabloid to cease publishing personal information, shut down, and pay the plaintiffs 1.5 million Ugandan shillings (about $580 USD) plus court costs; however, the court’s upholding of LGBT citizens’ civil rights didn’t have a positive impact on their day-to-day treatment. Activist David Kato told his colleagues that since the court victory, he had been subject to increasing levels of threats and harassment; in January 2011, he was beaten to death in his own home.
In Nigeria, where a similar law was recently passed, human rights advocate Michael Ighodaro told Gay Star News, “Aside from the fact that sections of this law are in direct violation of our fundamental human rights—freedom of expression and assembly, freedom to have a private and family life—and set back the provision of healthcare services, they effectively signify that it is open season to attack the LGBT community.”
He added, “The world has been silent on the passage of the bill, the silence is like saying Nigeria gays are not as important as gays in Uganda or Russia.
“That’s why we are calling on everyone to come out on [March 7] to show solidarity to Nigeria’s LGBT community, to show that the world has not neglected us.”