A spokesperson for Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Thursday said he “won’t rush” to sign a bill that would impose a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.
“There has been pressure from religious leaders and parliament to sign the bill into law,” presidential spokesperson Tamale Mirundi told Agence France-Presse. “President Museveni is a practical president, he takes decisions based on analysis and not on how many support or are against it.”
Ugandan lawmakers on Dec. 20 approved the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill that originally contained a provision that would have imposed the death penalty against anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.
The White House, U.K. Foreign Office Minister Hugh Robertson, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Council for Global Equality Chair Mark Bromley are among those who criticized the measure’s passage.
“We are deeply concerned by the Ugandan Parliament’s passage of anti-homosexuality legislation,” said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki in a Dec. 24 statement. “As Americans, we believe that people everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality – and that no one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or whom they love. We join those in Uganda and around the world who appeal for respect for the human rights of LGBT persons and of all persons.”
Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, told the Washington Blade after the Dec. 20 vote he is “very disappointed by the ignorance displayed by” Ugandan parliamentarians. The activist on Thursday dismissed Museveni’s spokesperson’s comments to AFP.
“Everything in the news is political,” Mugisha told the Blade. “So we cannot take it as important.”
Uganda is among the more than 70 countries in which homosexuality remains criminalized.
The Center for Constitutional Rights in March 2012 filed a federal lawsuit against Scott Lively in Massachusetts on behalf of SMUG that accuses the evangelical Christian of exploiting homophobic attitudes in the East African country and encouraging Ugandan lawmakers to approve the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. U.S. District Judge Michael A. Posner of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in August ruled the group’s lawsuit can move forward.
The Ugandan government did not immediately return the Blade’s request for comment.