Ugandan president signs anti-gay bill, defying the West

ENTEBBE, Uganda Mon Feb 24, 2014 3:02pm EST

1 of 2. Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signs an anti-homosexual bill into law at the state house in Entebbe, 36 km (22 miles) south west of capital Kampala February 24, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/James Akena

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ENTEBBE, Uganda (Reuters) - Uganda's president signed a law imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality on Monday, defying protests from rights groups, criticism from Western donors and a U.S. warning that it will complicate relations.

The new bill strengthened existing punishments for anyone caught having gay sex, imposing jail terms of up to life for "aggravated homosexuality" - including sex with a minor or while HIV-positive.

It criminalized lesbianism for the first time and made it a crime to help individuals engage in homosexual acts. Gay rights activists in Uganda said they planned a legal challenge.

Ugandan officials broke into loud applause as President Yoweri Museveni put his signature to the document in front of foreign journalists at his State House outside the capital.

"There's now an attempt at social imperialism, to impose social values. We're sorry to see that you (the West) live the way you live but we keep quiet about it," he said.

The legislation exposes the wide gulf between the continent's often culturally conservative administrations and many of the foreign donor states that support them. Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh last week called homosexuals "vermin".

Western donors immediately criticised Uganda. Norway and Denmark said they were withholding or diverting aid money and Austria said it was reviewing assistance. Britain condemned the new law but did not mention aid cuts.

"I feel sick. The degrading words the president has used ... my country is in a state of insanity right now," said Ugandan gay activist Kasha Nabagesera, adding the gay community expected to challenge the bill in the courts.

Gay and lesbian organisations fear the bill will encourage other governments to strengthen penalties, increase harassment, discourage people from taking HIV tests and make it impossible to live an openly gay life.

"Disapproval of homosexuality by some can never justify violating the fundamental human rights of others," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement.

'UN-AFRICAN'

Homosexuality is taboo in almost all African countries and illegal in 37 - including Uganda, where rights groups say gay people have long risked jail. Fear of violence, imprisonment and loss of jobs means few gays in Africa come out.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said it was a "tragic day for Uganda and for all who care about the cause of human rights," and that this "complicates a valued relationship."

He said in a statement the United States would review its relationship with Kampala "to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programs, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values."

Washington is one of Uganda's largest donors, sending more than $400 million a year.

Uganda is a key Western ally in the fight against Islamic extremism in Somalia, where Ugandan troops form the backbone of the African Union force battling al Qaeda-aligned militants.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Monday London questioned the bill's compatibility with the Ugandan constitution and international treaty obligations. But he made no mention of aid cuts from Britain, another big donor.

Austria said it was reviewing its assistance. Denmark said it was diverting 50 million crowns ($9 million) of development aid away from the Ugandan government, and Norway said it would hold back 50 million krone ($8 million) of support.

"We cannot distance ourselves too strongly from the law and the signal that the Ugandan government now sends to not only persecuted minority groups, but to the whole world," Danish Trade and Development Minister Mogens Jensen said.

But analysts said any Western penalties could be tempered because Kampala was seen as a valuable regional ally, while Uganda expects to pump oil for the first time in 2016 and hopes the inflow of petrodollars will cut aid dependence.

"He knows that while the West cares about homosexuality, it's not to such an extent that they would severely punish a good ally," said Ugandan political analyst Angelo Izama.

A Ugandan government spokesman said Museveni had taken the unusual step of signing the bill in public to "demonstrate Uganda's independence in the face of Western pressure".

While African leaders broadly court Western donors with promises to tackle human rights abuses, many have won popular support by describing homosexuality as "un-African" behaviour.

The Uganda's move should please conservative voters ahead of presidential elections scheduled for 2016.

"We don't like (homosexuality) in our culture," said motorbike taxi driver Ronald Kibabu. "That can keep him as president. The election is coming."

Museveni said last week he was putting the bill on hold to give scientists a chance to prove that homosexuality could be triggered by genes and was not a "lifestyle choice". They found no such evidence, Museveni said.

In neighboring Kenya, a group of MPs has called for the enforcement of existing anti-gay laws that have been largely ignored. Some Kenyans praised Uganda's actions.

"kudos to #Museveni for refusing to bow to #Obama demands on the homosexuality law," said Kenyan Twitter user @Chabbuh.

($1 = 5.4365 Danish crowns)

(Additional reporting by Philippa Croome in Kampala, Georgina Prodhan in Vienna and Balazs Koranyi in Oslo; Writing by Drazen Jorgic and Richard Lough; Editing by Edmund Blair, David Storey and Mohammad Zargham)

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Comments (35)
Dron wrote:
This article shows us something more important. It shows once again how powerless and weak Obama is, that even African leaders that depend on US aid still laugh in Obama’s face.

Feb 24, 2014 2:19am EST  --  Report as abuse
peniel wrote:
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni sign the bill gay is evil,If republic of India where evil exist can criminalize gay that means is evil. we the black people has never be shown any good thing than evil from the west, why can’t they show us how to travel to space or max they only introduce us to be sleeping with each order. America is now Wedding dogs they will soon ask us to join them in getting married to dogs. Shame on them Nigeria has criminalize gay, so is so many order black country. We are older than white people we are been fool by them don’t be afraid. Sign it SIR let us kill those who want to brought back SODOM TO EARTH.

Feb 24, 2014 4:45am EST  --  Report as abuse
Petabiko wrote:
ALONE AND FRIGHTENED – Being Gay in Uganda
———————————————–
Since that bill was passed, the police has been acting on any anonymous tips to arrest anyone suspected to be gay.

All that someone has to do is walk into there nearest police station and tell them so and so is gay and they will promptly arrest the suspect weather the allegations are true or false. The media will be called in immediately – down the drain your life goes.

Among the clauses in that law – ‘Anyone who does not report a gay person is liable to over 5years in jail’ – what does that mean? People will simply act on speculation
hence a possibility of arresting and imprisoning innocent people and people like me cannot open up to a doctor because there will be no patient – doctor confidentiality anymore.

Also, among the proposals is to deny bail to SUSPECTED gay people. (One thing am sure about is that this will affect even the many homophobes and can also be used for black mail. a person simply says so and so is gay and they will be put away as the good police does its investigations……that can take as long as the person accusing u deems fit.)

My Life:
I am 27years old now and a graduate.
Since i was a little boy i have always felt comfortable around boys being the 3rd child in a family of 5 boys and 2 girls. growing up in a very poor neighborhood.

I have grown up to this age with no girl (cissy) like tendencies throughout my life and no one (my family and friends) think am gay.

I have fought so hard to suppress these feelings all my life for fear of being dis-owned by my family and friends and worse still ending up in jail, but the fact is i cannot pretend all my life – so they will know.

As a teenager, i tried dating girls but this never worked out, all my girlfriends some how realized that our relationships were simply cosmetic/unreal (i never really gave them full attention since i enjoyed hanging out mostly with fellow boys and didn’t spend quality time with them. I have not had a stable girlfriend all my life to date but now at this age, am expected to have a girl friend if not married but am still single and not really searching for a marriage partner.

I grew up a God fearing boy but always had this thing for boys and had secret crushes on fellow boys throughout but could never bring my self to tell them how i felt. i thought i would outgrow these abnormal feelings but seems like as i grew older the feelings became stronger.

I have gone to church, especially pentecostal (born again) churches prayed and fasted hoping that someday i will wake up when am straight and normal like everyone else but this just never happens.
I cannot confess my sexuality to the pastors for fear of being the topic in their next Sunday morning summon.

In this country, gay people are seen as insane, worse than cockroaches, stupid and any other demeaning reference one can come up with all because people like me are not attracted to the opposite sex like everyone else.

But, where do i go for help? -
Church – All religious leaders in the country are at the for-front and pushing so hard for the president to sign the bill into law despite all the in-humane clauses in that bill – the bill had suggested a death sentence for aggravated offenders. In other words gay people will bring Gods Judgement on the country (remember Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible) and don’t deserve to be among Gods holly people – Straight people or in God’s holly country Uganda hence we should be taken care of immediately.
But the in the Bible – New testament Jesus welcomed all sinners and those considered unclean/un-worthy by the people, he preached love and not hate, but our religious leaders (the holy ones – Pastor Ssempa, Pastor Serwadda Joseph preach hate, life imprisonment or death to gay people – people like me.
Hence, if i cannot find love and solace in the house of God, where do i run in this homophobic and conservative country?

I have thought about ending my life several times, after all, who cares?, even God
hates me so ending it all will take me straight to hell where i belong and this country would be one gay person less such that the holy ones (straight) remain.

Back to the question, where do i go for help? – since they believe am sick.
- Professional counseling – The new law if signed, demands that anyone who doesn’t report a gay person is liable to imprisonment for over 5 years. Going for professional help is like walking yourself to the police station with the smoking gun in your hands.

- Check into a Mental Hospital – There is a mental hospital called Butabika hospital specially built for the insane. Since majority of Ugandans think that people like me are insane – i really hope that my sexuality can be cured as well such that i come out straight like everyone else.

Jan 17th 2014 – One of the leading daily new papers report that the president was quoted saying that gay people are sick and need help. But where do we go for help? and we will not be looked at as dirt or vile?, who can i trust when everyone thinks i deserve to be killed on site or locked away for life?

If this bill is signed into law, i officially become an outcast with no place in a country that i love so much. i love this country so much i had never applied for a passport because i felt so much at home and also had not considered traveling out of this country in the near future unless an opportunity presented its self or my employer sent me.

I have chosen to live a single life because i don’t want to pretend am in love with a girl and yet i wake up everyday wishing she was dead or got involved in a nasty car accident. i feel true love should not be forced, why should i pretend or be forced to live with someone i don’t love and have no feelings for just because i have to be culturally correct and please my parents and the public?, why cant i be with someone i love as long as we are both adults?. I do not support people who involve themselves sexually with under age boys because they are still young and cannot decide for them selves, i feel this is wrong even if your straight or gay and as much as am gay, i don’t support gay marriage.

I ask my self, Why am i like this???? – why am i not like everyone else?, they say being gay is a western thing, that its a white mans thing, that came from Europe and America.
I have grown up and lived in Uganda all my life, i have never had any white male/female friends to influence me. How then did America or Europe make me into the person i am?

When am taken to court today, it will be the whole country including Jesus against me, i guess the only person on my side will be the devil.

The world has judged us and found guilty, there is not place for us. i hard some callers on radio on Sunday morning say that we deserve to be killed by firing squad, another caller said that they should use hammers (a few good strikes with a hammer on the head will be sufficient), i listen in quietly to peoples observations on radio, TV and at work its so frightening.

This means that people like me deserve no mercy whatsoever. Jesus didn’t die for people like me, we should be exterminated.
We are a minority, nothing that we say makes any sense to straight people, to them we deserve to die.

Gay people are just like any other person, and yet we have been portrayed to be monsters.
How do i tell you that am actually gay????????

I have decided to keep this to my self since the law empowers him to report me to police.

GOD BLESS YOU THE STRAIGHT PEOPLE, I WISH I WAS LIKE YOU

Feb 24, 2014 5:33am EST  --  Report as abuse
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