On Monday, February 24, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the country’s Anti-Homosexual Bill, also known as the “Jail All the Gays” bill, into law on live television.
The bill, which previously included the death penalty for those convicted of “aggravated” homosexuality, was passed in an attempt to toughen up on current anti-LGBT legislation. The new law includes jail time for first time offenders, those who “promote” homosexuality and those who fail to report homosexuals to the police; repeat offenders can be sentenced to life imprisonment.
Museveni, who has been mulling over whether to sign the bill since Parliament passed it in December 2013, allegedly decided to sign it in an attempt to assert Ugandan independence.
Despite Museveni’s claim of sovereignty, it is widely acknowledged that extreme anti-gay influences in the West, mostly from the United States, are hugely impacting Uganda’s view on homosexuality.
Trans-Atlantic religious networks such as the US-based organizations International House of Prayer (IHOP) and The Family have worked tirelessly to provide both financial aid and religious influence to the people of Uganda, cementing the homophobia resonant in their society.
Museveni’s decision to sign the bill comes regardless of relentless international criticism. From US President Barack Obama’s warning that the bill would seriously strain their international relationship to US scientists writing to Museveni to attest that studies have shown sexuality is not a social or learned behavior, Uganda has and continues to face scrutiny for the bill.
On Tuesday, January 14, Mozambique’s former president Joaquim Chissano also wrote an open letter to Africa’s leaders urging them to “take a strong stand for fundamental human rights, and advance the trajectory for basic freedoms.”
In contrast, Member of Parliament David Bahati, who introduced the bill, told reporters “Today is a victory for the people of Uganda and the future of this country.”
When the bill was passed through Parliament in December, Museveni at first refused to sign it due to the abrupt manner in which it was passed; he later asked for scientific proof that homosexuality was a learned behavior rather than an “abnormality.” After he received “confirmation” from a handful of Ugandan scientists that sexuality is “abnormal,” he assented to signing the bill—then once more changed his mind after US scientists disputed the evidence.
Museveni then claimed he would await advice from US scientists before making a decision. However, after weeks of tension and misleading governmental reports, he finally decided to sign the bill.
Speaking to a crowd of journalists and lawmakers, Museveni finally clarified his viewpoint, saying, “It is our view that we punish exhibitionism, recruiters and homosexual prostitutes. We don’t impose ourselves on Western culture. What is wrong with this then? Why must you show us how you kiss? We are sick of homosexuals exhibiting themselves.”
“All Africans are flabbergasted by this exhibition of sexual conduct,” he added, before revealing his personal discomfort with homosexuality. “I do not understand why a man can’t be attracted to a beautiful woman and instead be attracted to a fellow man.”
According to South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Museveni had previously promised him he would not sign the bill into effect. “I was therefore very disheartened to hear last week that President Museveni was reconsidering his position,” he said.
On Monday, February 24, US Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement, “Instead of standing on the side of freedom, justice and equal rights for its people, today, regrettably, Ugandan President Museveni took Uganda a step backward by signing into law legislation criminalizing homosexuality.
“As President Obama has said, this law is more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda, it reflects poorly on the country’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people and will undermine public health, including efforts to fight HIV/AIDS.
“We will continue to urge the Ugandan government to repeal this abhorrent law and to advocate for the protection of the universal human rights of LGBT persons in Uganda and around the world.”