UGANDAN President Yoweri Museveni yesterday signed off a controversial law allowing for homosexuals to be jailed for life, shrugging off warnings from world powers. The law, which also outlaws the promotion of homosexuality and requires people to denounce gays, came despite fierce criticism from US President Barack Obama and a warning that ties between Kampala and Washington would be damaged.
“No study has shown you can be homosexual by nature, that’s why I have agreed to sign the bill,” Museveni said in a speech after a signing ceremony at the presidential palace near the capital Kampala.
The bill will provide a stiff test for foreign donors, with Museveni warning Western nations not to meddle in the central African nation’s affairs, and that he was not afraid of aid being cut.
Museveni, a key African ally of the US and the European Union, has already been under fire from key donors over alleged rampant corruption, and had been under pressure from diplomats and rights groups to block the legislation.
“If the West does not want to work with us because of homosexuals, then we have enough space to ourselves here,” Museveni said, accusing those who told Uganda how to act of being guilty of social imperialism.
The anti-gay bill cruised through parliament in December after its architects agreed to drop a death penalty clause. It holds that repeat homosexuals should be jailed for life, outlaws the promotion of homosexuality and legally obliges people to denounce gays to the police.
The lawmaker behind the bill, David Bahati, praised the signing.
“The law is for the good of Uganda, the current and the future generations.”
South African Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu said on Sunday the law recalled sinister attempts by Nazi and apartheid regimes to legislate against love, while Amnesty International called the bill a horrific expansion of state-sanctioned homophobia.
“I am officially a criminal for being a lesbian, something I have no control over,” Uganda gay rights activist Kasha Jacqueline said.
Gay men and women in Uganda face harassment and threats of violence, and rights activists have reported cases of lesbians being subjected to corrective rapes.
In 2011, prominent gay rights campaigner David Kato was bludgeoned to death at his home after a newspaper splashed photos, names and addresses of gays in Uganda on its front page along with a yellow banner reading “Hang Them”.
Museveni, a devout evangelical Christian, earlier also signed into law anti-pornography and dress code legislation which outlaws provocative clothing, bans scantily clad performers from television and closely monitors what individuals view on the internet.
HOMOSEXUALITY LAWS IN AFRICA
NIGERIA: A new law provides for jail terms of up to 14 years for gay couples who live together and 10
years for public displays of affection between gays. In northern states where Islamic law is used, homosexuals face the death penalty, though the punishment is rarely, if ever, applied.
CAMEROON: Homosexuality is punishable by up to five years in prison.
GAMBIA: Homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
ZAMBIA: Same-sex relationships are banned and a conviction for gay sex carries a 14-year prison sentence.
SENEGAL: Anyone convicted of an “improper or unnatural act with a person of the same sex” faces up to five years in jail.
TUNISIA: Sodomy between consenting adults is punishable by up to three years in prison.
MOROCCO: Homosexuality is punishable by six months to three years in prison, but is tolerated in practice.
ALGERIA: Anyone charged with a homosexual act faces up to two years in prison, but people are rarely prosecuted. – AFP