24 February 2014

Uganda: Museveni Signs Anti-Gay Bill Into Law

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has signed the country's anti-gay bill into law, rejecting protests issued by leaders ranging from President Barack Obama to retired South African archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The Ugandan government's Media Centre tweeted on Monday that Museveni signed the bill at State House, Entebbe, thus banning the promotion of a gay lifestyle in Uganda and providing for life imprisonment in certain cases.

His decision to approve the law came after a prominent group at Makerere University's law school had made it clear that it would protect the rights of gays and lesbians - thus running the risk of being charged under the new law with "promoting" homosexuality.

The government Media Centre quoted Museveni as saying he had not signed the bill earlier because he thought that people were born gay.

"I did not understand why a man is not attracted to a beautiful woman," he said. So he had consulted Ugandan and foreign scientists. They had indicated that some were gay "by nurture," he said. Also, "there are those recruited because of poverty."

Museveni added, according to the Media Centre: "Can someone be purely homosexual by nature? Their (the scientists') answer is No!"

In an impassioned appeal to Museveni at the weekend, Tutu said the Ugandan president had assured him last month that he would not sign the bill into law.

Tutu drew an analogy between the bill and the laws of Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa, saying: "There is no scientific justification for prejudice and discrimination, ever. And nor is there any moral justification."

Tutu added: "We must be entirely clear about this: The history of people is littered with attempts to legislate against love or marriage across class, caste and race. But there is no scientific basis or genetic rationale for love. There is only the grace of God."

In a statement also issued before Museveni signed the bill, the Refugee Law Project at Makerere University's School of Law said human rights groups and activists were already feeling the impact of the bill: "Some individuals and organisations have already been threatened, silenced and branded as promoters of homosexual orientations ...

"Refugee Law Project does not believe that it is possible to promote a particular sexual orientation," the statement added. Citing Uganda's Ministry of Health, the project said homosexuality "has existed throughout history in all corners of the globe" and committed itself to protecting "the rights of sexual and gender minorities in the belief that they are as important as the rights of any other human being."

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