President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, said that he intends to sign an anti-gay bill that could give a life sentence for those charged with “aggravated homosexuality.” It has been seen worldwide as a major blow to Human Rights in Africa when Museveni made this announcement on Friday to his party members.
The bill reads that promoting or acknowledging homosexual relationships will be a criminal offense. After only one conviction, the accused could face up to 14 years in prison. Following offenses labeled “aggravated homosexuality” could have offenders looking at a life sentence. There could also be prosecution for those who do not report homosexuals to the government.
President Obama has attacked the legislation and has publicly warned President Museveni that this bill could damage Uganda’s relationship with the United States (US), which Obama currently sees as a “valued” connection. Yearly, the United States sends aid money to Uganda that is valued in the hundred millions. Obama has not specified as to what will change in the US and Ugandan relationship if the bill is signed, but an official in the administration said that the relationship could come under review.
Susan Rice, Obama’s national security advisor, talked to Museveni asking him not to sign the legislation. However, news reports convey that Museveni is set on signing the bill into law. Obama believes that this is a huge mistake and will jeopardize the country’s capacity to protect its citizens’ human rights.
Obama cites the growing cases of violence and discrimination against the LGBT community in Russia and Nigeria: both of which have anti-gay legislation. The President also commends the Ugandans who are dedicated in their support of human rights and respect. Obama believes that Uganda’s anti-gay bill that gives a life sentence for “aggravated homosexuality,” is a move in the wrong direction.
Obama has had a great stake in Uganda’s well being as a nation. In the early years of his presidency, he sent 100 US soldiers to battle against the Lord’ Resistance Army who was terrorizing Africans in Uganda and the surrounding areas. In addition, last year Obama sent U.S. Aid totaling more than $265 million to Uganda.
Museveni’s party, the National Resistance Movement, supports the bill because they view it as a productive way to “protect Ugandans from social deviants.” If signed, Uganda will join the 38 out of 54 countries in Africa that have outlawed homosexuality. Death sentences can be carried out as punishment for homosexual behavior in northern Nigeria, southern Somalia, Mauritania and Sudan because a form of Shariah Law runs these areas.
Uganda already has laws against gay acts, leftover from the colonial era. In 2009, they tried to push new anti-homosexual legislation that would have enacted the death penalty in some instances. There was international resistance against the bill and it was never passed. The bill was modified and then passed last December, but Museveni withdrew the bill again after resistance. Museveni said he still plans to sign the bill once it is again revised.
Ugandan gay rights activist Frank Mugisha said that Museveni realizes that the bill is unconstitutional and that it will be challenged. Mugisha added that even having the proposed legislation on the table has increased hatefulness and violent actions against the LGBT community. However, Mugish does not believe that Museveni will sign a Uganda anti-gay bill that could give a life sentence for “aggravated homosexuality” violators.
By Rebecca Hofland