February 24, 2014 | by Michael K. Lavers
Ugandan president signs anti-gay bill 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).

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Monday signed a bill into law that imposes a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

“I have failed to understand that you can fail to be attracted to all these beautiful women and be attracted to a man,” Museveni told reporters as he signed the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill at his official residence in Entebbe, according to Agence France-Presse. “That is a really serious matter. There is something really wrong with you.”

The news agency reported Museveni described gays and lesbians as “mercenaries” who are actually “heterosexual people but because of money they say they are homosexuals.”

Museveni also said oral sex can cause worms, Hepatitis B and other sexually transmitted diseases.

“The mouth is for picking food, not for sex,” he said, according to Agence France-Presse. “We know the address for sex. That address (the mouth) is not for sex. The mouth is for eating not for sex. The mouth is engineered for kissing.”

Museveni signed the controversial measure less than a week after he rebuked President Obama’s criticism of him over the issue.

“Africans do not seek to impose their views on anybody,” said Museveni in a Feb. 18 statement. “We do not want anybody to impose their views on us. This very debate was provoked by Western groups who come to our schools and try to recruit children into homosexuality. It is better to limit the damage rather than exacerbate it.”

Museveni said he sought “scientific opinions” on whether people were “born homosexual.”

The Ugandan president in his statement specifically cited Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights President Kerry Kennedy – with whom he met last month – for sending him information from U.S. scientists who said “there could be some indications that homosexuality could be congenital.” Museveni said scientists from the Ugandan Ministry of Health and two other agencies came to a “unanimous conclusion” that “homosexuality, contrary to my earlier thinking, was behavioral and not genetic.”

“What I want them to clarify is whether a combination of genes can cause anybody to be homosexual,” added the Ugandan president in his Feb. 18 statement. “Then my task will be finished and I will sign the bill.”

Ofwondo Opondo, a spokesperson for the Ugandan government, noted on Twitter that Arizona lawmakers last week approved a bill that would allow businesses to deny services to gays and lesbians based on their religious beliefs.

“What is [President] Obama saying to Arizona state law just passed to deny gays services on religious grounds,” said Opondo.

Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a Ugandan LGBT advocacy group, blasted Museveni.

“President Museveni’s scientific inquiry is a smokescreen for what is truly going on: political homophobia at its worst,” Mugisha told the Washington Blade. “Last month the President said he would not sign this fascist bill. But now, it seems he has sold us out for the votes of his party. It is politics – plain and simple – all at the expense of LGBTI Ugandans.”

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is among those who also criticized the Ugandan president for signing the bill.

“This law violates a host of fundamental human rights, including the right to freedom from discrimination, to privacy, freedom of association, peaceful assembly, opinion and expression and equality before the law – all of which are enshrined in Uganda’s own constitution and in the international treaties it has ratified,” said Pillay.

Uganda is among the 70 countries in which homosexuality remains criminalized.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who met with Museveni last month during a trip to Uganda with four other American lawmakers, is among those who have urged the Ugandan president not to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law.

“I certainly disagree with the controversial legislation that Uganda may enact in the coming days,” the Oklahoma Republican told the Washington Blade last week. “As I’ve said before, it is my hope that the country will abandon this unjust and harsh legislation.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights in March 2012 filed a federal lawsuit against Scott Lively on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a Ugandan LGBT rights group, that accuses the evangelical Christian of exploiting homophobic attitudes in the East African country and encouraging lawmakers to approve the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Judge Michael A. Posner of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts last August ruled the lawsuit can proceed.

Scott Lively, anti-gay, gay news, Washington Blade

Anti-gay activist Scott Lively spoke at the Coalition for Family Values press conference at the National Press Club on Feb. 21. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Lively described the Center for Constitutional Rights as a “Marxist law firm from New York City” during a Feb. 21 press conference at the National Press Club in downtown Washington where he and other anti-gay advocates announced the creation of a new organization designed to combat the global LGBT rights movement.

“The purpose of the lawsuit is to shut me up because I speak very articulately about the homosexual issue from a pro-family perspective,” said Lively in response to the Blade’s question about the lawsuit and whether his new group will encourage additional anti-LGBT violence and discrimination in Uganda and other countries.

Lively categorized the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to the Blade as “overly harsh on its face, but this is typical of African criminal law across the continent.”

“Poor countries with limited criminal justice systems tend to rely on the harshness of the letter of the law to be a deterrent to criminals,” he said on Monday. “In practice, the sentencing is usually pretty lenient. Kenya, for example, has the death penalty for burglary, but burglars are definitely not being executed there.”

Lively added he has “explained this phenomenon” to more than two dozen journalists at “top media outlets that have interviewed me over the past couple of years, but none have included this perspective in their stories.”

“I guess it would undermine their efforts to bolster the ‘gay’ cause,” he told the Blade.

The Washington Blade will have more information on this story as it becomes available.

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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