President Obama on Sunday sharply criticized Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni after announcing he plans to sign a bill that would impose a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.
“The Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, once law, will be more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda,” said Obama. “It will be a step backward for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people. It also will mark a serious setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice and equal rights.”
Obama further stressed his administration has “conveyed” to Museveni that “enacting this legislation will complicate our valued relationship with Uganda.”
“At a time when, tragically, we are seeing an increase in reports of violence and harassment targeting members of the LGBT community from Russia to Nigeria, I salute all those in Uganda and around the world who remain committed to respecting the human rights and fundamental human dignity of all persons,” said Obama.
Obama’s statement comes two days after Museveni signaled to Ugandan parliamentarians that he intends to sign the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Museveni told Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights President Kerry Kennedy, two of her organizations staffers and Archbishop Desmond Tutu during a Jan. 18 meeting in Entebbe, Uganda, that he would reject the “fascist” measure that lawmakers in the East African country approved late last year. The RFK Center said at the time the Ugandan president “promised” the organization during a meeting last March that he would not sign “any bill that discriminates against any individual.”
Uganda is among the more than 70 countries in which homosexuality remains criminalized.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan last month signed a draconian bill into law that bans nuptials for gays and lesbians, same-sex “amorous relationships” and membership in LGBT advocacy groups. Anti-LGBT violence and discrimination in neighboring Cameroon, Zimbabwe and other African countries have also made headlines over the last year.
“When it comes to how the state treats people, how the law treats people, I believe that everybody has to be treated equally,” said Obama last June during a press conference with Senegalese President Macky Sall that took place in Dakar, Senegal, a day after the U.S. Supreme Court found a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and struck down California’s Proposition 8. “I don’t believe in discrimination of any sort. That’s my personal view. And I speak as somebody who obviously comes from a country in which there were times when people were not treated equally under the law, and we had to fight long and hard through a civil rights struggle to make sure that happens.”
Obama reiterated this sentiment in response to Museveni’s announcement that he plans to sign his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law.
“As a country and a people, the United States has consistently stood for the protection of fundamental freedoms and universal human rights,” said Obama. “We believe that people everywhere should be treated equally, with dignity and respect, and that they should have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, no matter who they are or whom they love.”