February 20, 2014 | by Michael K. Lavers
Uganda anti-gay bill reportedly signed into law

Yoweri Museveni, Uganda, gay news, Washington Blade

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni (Photo by the U.K. Department for International Development; courtesy Wikimedia Commons).

Reports have begun to emerge that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Thursday signed a bill that would impose a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, on his Twitter page cited “reliable, but not confirmed sources” who indicated Museveni signed the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

The Ugandan government did not immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment, but it posted a statement on its Facebook page earlier on Thursday about the Anti-Homosexuality Law.

“Government of Uganda reiterates its commitment to uphold and protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons in Uganda as guaranteed by the Constitution,” it reads. “No person shall be prosecuted outside the provisions of the law.”

The Ugandan government also sought to reassure “all Ugandans and the international community of its continued commitment and respect for the rule of law in Uganda.”

News of Museveni potentially signing the bill broke less than a week after President Obama blasted him over the issue.

“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 in a Feb. 16 statement. “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.”

The U.S. State Department, Amnesty International, the Human Rights Campaign and other groups have also sharply criticized Ugandan lawmakers who approved the controversial measure late last year. National Security Advisor Susan Rice tweeted on Feb. 16 she spoke “at length” with Museveni and urged him not to sign the bill.

The Ugandan president told Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights President Kerry Kennedy, two of her organization’s staffers and Archbishop Desmond Tutu during a Jan. 18 meeting in Uganda that he would reject the “fascist” measure. The RFK Center said at the time Museveni “promised” the organization during a separate meeting last March that he would not sign “any bill that discriminates against any individual.”

A picture on the Ugandan government’s Facebook page shows U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and other American lawmakers met with Museveni on Jan. 23.

An Inhofe spokesperson told the Washington Blade before they left the U.S. the legislators were not scheduled to meet with the Ugandan president while in the East African country.

She confirmed on Thursday the Oklahoma Republican discussed with Museveni the Lord’s Resistance Army that led a bloody insurgency against the Ugandan government from 1986-2006, the ongoing conflicts in the Central African Republic and South Sudan and the status of a defense agreement between Uganda and the U.S.

The congressional delegation did not meet with Ugandan LGBT rights advocates during the trip.

“I certainly disagree with the controversial legislation that Uganda may enact in the coming days,” Inhofe told the Blade on Thursday in a statement, referring specifically to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. “As I’ve said before, it is my hope that the country will abandon this unjust and harsh legislation.”

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 remain pervasive problems in Cameroon, Zimbabwe and other African countries.

“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.”

Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday sharply criticized Gambian President Yahya Jammeh after he described gay men as “vermin” and used other anti-LGBT rhetoric during a Feb. 18 speech that marked the anniversary of his country’s independence from the U.K.

The Blade will provide further updates on this story as they become available.

Jim Inhofe, United States Senate, Republican Party, Oklahoma, Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, kill the gays bill, gay news, Washington Blade

A picture the Ugandan government posted to its Facebook page confirms U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and other U.S. lawmakers met with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in the East African country last month. (Screenshot via Facebook)

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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