September 14, 2015 at 11:19 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Ugandan president says anti-gay law ‘not necessary’

Uganda, Yoweri Museveni

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni told reporters in Tokyo on Sept. 12, 2015, that the Anti-Homosexuality Act he signed last year was “not necessary.” (Photo courtesy of the State Department)

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Saturday said an anti-gay law he signed last year was “not necessary” because his country already bans consensual same-sex sexual relations.

The Associated Press reported that Museveni told reporters in Tokyo that the Anti-Homosexuality Act “was not necessary because we already have a law which was left by the British which deals with this issue.”

Museveni in February 2014 signed the statute under which those convicted of repeated same-sex sexual acts faced life in prison.

His decision to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Act sparked outrage among LGBT rights advocates in Uganda and around the world.

The Obama administration in June 2014 announced the U.S. had cut aid to Uganda and imposed a travel ban against officials responsible for anti-LGBT and other human rights abuses in the East African country. The Constitutional Court of Uganda less than two months later struck down the Anti-Homosexuality Act on a technicality.

Museveni last October acknowledged to a Ugandan newspaper that the Anti-Homosexuality Act could have an adverse effect on his country’s economy. Wade McMullen of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights noted to the Washington Blade on Monday that Museveni’s latest comments come less than a week after a Ugandan court convicted Chris Mubiru, the former manager of a Kampala soccer team, of sodomy.

The Daily Monitor, a Ugandan newspaper, reported that Mubiru faces up to 18 years in prison.

“There’s going to be a lot of people who will rush to take (Museveni’s) comments to be a good sign,” McMullen told the Blade, referring to the Ugandan president’s comments about the Anti-Homosexuality Act. “In a relative manner of speaking of course it’s a good thing to say that we don’t need harsh anti-LGBT laws that amount to persecution, so yes that is a good thing. It’s definitely true that those laws are not needed or even welcome anywhere in the world. However the underlying rationale to say that it’s not needed is to cite the existence of a colonial-era sodomy law that also violates international norms.”

“This isn’t some old law that’s not been used,” added McMullen.

State Department spokesperson John Kirby on Monday during his daily press briefing acknowledged to the Blade that he had seen Museveni’s comments.

“We place great importance on the protection and promotion of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons around the world,” said Kirby. “No one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or whom they love. Human rights, as you know, remain, in our view, universal rights.”

Kirby told the Blade in response to a question about whether Museveni’s comments would have any impact on the U.S. restoring the aid to Uganda that he currently knows of “no decisions” on the issue.

“It’s something we’re constantly evaluating, constantly looking at,” said Kirby. “We have lots of tools at our disposal, but no decisions to announce today.”

Ugandan lawmakers earlier this month debated a bill that would increase oversight of non-governmental organizations in the country.

It remains unclear when debate will resume on the Non-Governmental Organizations Bill of 2015, but LGBT rights advocates contend it would further hinder their advocacy efforts in the country.

“This law, if passed, will ultimately mean institutionalization of discrimination towards LGBT organizing in Uganda,” Clare Byarugaba of Chapter Four Uganda, a Ugandan advocacy group, told the Blade in a previous interview.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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