Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has refused to approve a controversial bill to toughen laws against homosexuals. He has written to the parliamentary speaker criticising her for passing it in December without a quorum. Homosexuals were “abnormal” and could be “rescued”, Uganda’s private Monitor paper quotes the president’s letter as saying.
The bill includes life imprisonment for homosexual acts and also makes it a crime not to report gay people. The BBC’s Catherine Byaruhanga in the capital, Kampala says the promotion of homosexuality – even talking about it without condemning the lifestyle – would also be punishable by a prison term. Mr Museveni said the bill was forced through despite his advice to shelve it until the government had studied it in depth, the Monitor reports.
“Even with legislation, they will simply go underground and continue practicing homosexuality or lesbianism for mercenary reasons,” he is quoted as saying. The president is aware that if he signs the bill there will be an international outcry, which could see some countries suspend aid to the country, our reporter says.
Human rights activists say the bill highlights the intolerance and discrimination the gay community faces in Uganda. One gay activist was killed in 2011, although the police denied he was targeted because of his sexuality. The bill has been condemned by world leaders since it was mooted in 2009 – US President Barack Obama called it “odious”.
The private member’s bill originally proposed the death penalty for some offences, such as if a minor was involved or the perpetrator was HIV-positive, but this was dropped.