Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Feb. 24 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.”
Museveni described gays and lesbians as “mercenaries” who are actually “heterosexual people but because of money they say they are homosexuals.” The Ugandan president also said oral sex can cause worms, Hepatitis B and other sexually transmitted diseases.
“The mouth is for picking food, not for sex,” said Museveni, 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’s decision to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill sparked widespread outrage among LGBT rights advocates and Western governments.
Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a Ugandan LGBT advocacy group, scoffed at Museveni’s previous claims that he sought “scientific opinions” on whether people were “born homosexual.” The activist is among the list of “200 top” gays whose names a Ugandan tabloid published on Tuesday.
Museveni in a Feb. 18 statement that rebuked President Obama’s criticisms over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill specifically cited the 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 heterosexuality 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.”
“President Museveni’s scientific inquiry is a smokescreen for what is truly going on: political homophobia at its worst,” Mugisha told the Washington Blade on Feb. 24. “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 said the law “violates a host of fundamental human rights” that Uganda’s constitution guarantees. Kennedy added Ugandan lawmakers and Museveni have decided to “criminalize an already vulnerable population rather than safeguarding equality in the country.”
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who met with Museveni last month during a trip to Uganda with four other American lawmakers, also 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 Blade last week after Museveni announced his plans to sign the controversial measure. “As I’ve said before, it is my hope that the country will abandon this unjust and harsh legislation.”
White House to ‘review’ relationship with Uganda
The Obama administration has begun “a review” of its relationship with Uganda in response to Museveni’s decision to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told the Blade on Feb. 24 the review “means a range of things.”
She did not specifically say whether it would include cutting any of the more than $485 million in aid the U.S. provided to Uganda last year for global health, military, poverty reduction and other programs. Psaki also did not tell the Blade whether this review would include recalling U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Scott DeLisi to Washington for consultations or sanctions.
“We’re looking at a range of options,” she told the Blade.
The Center for Constitutional Rights in March 2012 filed a federal lawsuit against Scott Lively on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda 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.
A document the anti-gay Coalition for Advancement of Moral Values (CAMOVA) sent to Ugandan parliamentarians last year that the Blade exclusively obtained lists “oral anal sex” as among the “horrors of homosexuality.” Lively is among the three prominent American evangelicals who attended a 2009 summit that CAMOVA organized titled “Exposing the Homosexuals’ Agenda” – Parliamentarian David Bahati several months later introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that at the time contained a death penalty provision for anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual relations.
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 American evangelical who is running to succeed outgoing Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick categorized the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to the Blade on Feb. 24 as “overly harsh on its face,” but “typical of African criminal law across the country.”
“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,” said Lively. “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.”
Mugisha and other LGBT rights advocates are expected to petition Uganda’s Constitutional Court to overturn the law.