Gay Ugandans urge President Museveni not to sign Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Campaigners are reiterating calls on Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni not to sign the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law, following cautious comments by the Ugandan leader.

Last Friday, Uganda’s Parliament passed legislation to toughen the punishment for same-sex sexual activity, including life imprisonment for ‘repeat offenders’.

The bill increases the penalty for other acts – including mere sexual touching – from seven years to life imprisonment.

Promoting homosexuality and aiding and abetting others to commit same-sex acts will be punishable by five to seven years in jail.

A person in authority – gay or heterosexual – who fails to report violators to the police within 24 hours will be sentenced to three years behind bars.

Speaking at a Christmas prayers event, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni said he would push the bill back to Parliament if he did not agree with it.

He said: “I will first go through it, if I find that it is right I will sign but if I find that it is not right I will send it back to Parliament.”

However, it is possible for parliamentary supporters of the bill to bypass the need for presidential approval if a further vote is tabled. They require a two-thirds majority.

In response, Edwin Sesange, from the UK based African LGBTI Out & Proud Diamond Group said: “As a Ugandan I know that we have had a lot of struggles to accept the rights of other groups of people and this helped in stopping violence and mistreatment that was geared towards those people.

“We know that President Museveni has always championed good causes like the fight against HIV and AIDS, the struggle for women equality, regional peace, and has always endeavored to protect the rights of the minorities like the squatters.

“The president accepts that LGBTI people exist in Uganda and have always existed; therefore legislating against their existence will only incite violence towards them.

“President Museveni prides himself as a liberator and a protector of all Ugandans. This bill however is not liberating and neither protects any individual.

“We are calling on the President of Uganda not to sign this bill into law.”

Campaigners believe the issue of foreign aid could be weighing on President Museveni’s mind, but they also recognise the president supports the spirit of the bill.

On Christmas Eve, Sir Richard Branson called for a corporate boycott of Uganda, following the Ugandan Parliament’s decision to pass the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Last Friday, the UK Government condemned the Ugandan Parliament for passing the bill.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson said to “We’re concerned about the impact of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill on human rights in Uganda and fear the bill will damage the rights of people belonging to minority groups, and Uganda’s international reputation.”

The US State Department also criticised the move. It said: “We condemn legislation that criminalises consensual sexual conduct between adults or criminalises simply being of a particular sexual orientation or gender identity.”

In March, President Museveni accused European countries of trying to promote homosexuality and sexual liberalisation. He described gay people as “deviants” and claimed “there is no discrimination, no killings, no marginalisation” of gay Ugandans.

In December 2012, President Museveni said gay people should not be killed or persecuted, but added: “We cannot accept promotion of homosexuality as if it is a good thing.”