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President Yoweri Museveni

After writing a sprawling eight-page letter last December indicating that he opposed his country’s controversial tough anti-gay bill, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni recently signed the measure into law.

Although homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda, the newly signed bill imposes harsher punishments, up to 14 years for a first offense and life sentences for those convicted of “aggravated homosexuality.” It also targets Uganda’s LGBT activists, making “promotion of homosexuality” a crime, and for the first time, the law punishes lesbians in Uganda who were previously left out of the legislation.

President Obama warned Uganda that instituting such a law would damage ties between the two countries (the U.S. provides $400 million in aid to the African nation each year), but in a defiant speech during the signing ceremony at the State House in Entebbe, President Museveni told the crowd:

“No study has shown you can be homosexual by nature. That’s why I have agreed to sign the bill.

“Outsiders cannot dictate to us. This is our country. I advise friends from the west not to make this an issue, because if they make it an issue the more they will lose. If the west does not want to work with us because of homosexuals, then we have enough space to ourselves here.”

“We see how you do things, the families, how they’re organized,” he told CNN. “All the things, we see them, we keep quiet,” he said. “It’s not our country, maybe you like it. So there’s now an attempt at social imperialism — to impose social values of one group on our society.”

According to the BBC, the law has been softened from its initial state, which previously made it illegal to not report someone who suspected of being gay. However, this clause has reportedly been removed.

The controversial law still includes strict punishments for being gay, including:

  • Life imprisonment for gay sex, including oral sex
  • Life imprisonment for “aggravated homosexuality”, including sex with a minor or while HIV-positive
  • Life imprisonment for living in a same-sex marriage
  • Seven years for “attempting to commit homosexuality”
  • Between five and seven years in jail or a $40,700 (£24,500) fine or both for the promotion of homosexuality
  • Businesses or non-governmental organisations found guilty of the promotion of homosexuality would have their certificates of registration cancelled and directors could face seven years in jail

The bill’s sponsor, MP David Bahati, defended the law, saying, “Homosexuality is just bad behaviour that should not be allowed in our society” Bahati also argued that homosexuality can be “unlearned.”

President Museveni signed the bill into law to rousing applause, but the BBC’s Catherine Byaruhanga said this was an uncharacteristically public move.

Government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said the spectacle was meant “to demonstrate Uganda’s independence in the face of Western pressure and provocation.”

LGBT activists and citizens in Uganda are rightly worried about the  law. One anonymous activist told the BBC, “I didn’t even go to work today [Monday]. I’m locked up in the house. And I don’t know what’s going to happen now.”

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  • Nirvana

    I will take him seriously when he returns Pharrell’s hat..

    • UgoBabeeeeee

      stupid comment…anyway who cares about what you think of him

    • Nirvana

      You obviously care enough to comment. Too bad you’re cramping too hard to process a simple joke. But if you must know, I generally don’t take African “leaders” who dress like Europeans seriously.

    • UgoBabeeee

      commenting is to put on record my view an the lack of urs- it doesnt mean that i care about your pov….

      what do you mean by dress as europeans- how is he supposed to dress? what is the malawian style of dress? if you dismiss african leaders by how they dress you are pretty shallow

  • Gigi

    He wasn’t going to sign it until Obama and Canada said they would cut donor funding, and right now those African leaders are becoming “anti-west”,

    it all started when Kenya’s president whose being tried for crimes againat humanity pointed out that that the ICC only tries African leaders, whereas Obama and Bush can fight other countries and get away with it.

    If Obama hadnt said anything he would not have signed it, sad, we shall see how African politics will go now with Zimbabwe even expelling some foreign diplomats

    Its all politics and its very sad because gay people will be victimized

    • Lola

      African countries have been voting anti gay laws for years now. It’s not Obama’s fault. If Obama hadn’t said anything people would have blamed him for turning a blind eye on gay rights violation in Ouganda. Damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

      The ICC doesn’t only tried African dictators. They also tried the Serbian leaders.

      Even if he signed the bill because Obama criticised the law project, it shows what kind of politician he is. Petty, immature, spiteful and who doesn’t give a eff about his country citizens.

  • GeekMommaRants

    The issue I have with this law can be defined by the term Down Low. I guess, Ugandans are prepared to accept this and maybe prefer it??

  • Self Preservation

    White gays in Western Nations need to teach these black homosexuals how to have safe sex if they want blacks to accept gays and homosexuality. Black gays in the U.S. are the source of 90% of NEW HIV infections (black Gays infecting other mostly young gays and infecting black women) in the black community. It is an extremely high risk lifestyle in the black community. Self preservation has to be a societies first priority.

    • Miss E

      HIV is not the reason why homophobes hate gays otherwise, homophobes would LOVE gay women since they have lower HIV infection rates than straight women (google the study by Turin University on lesbians & bi women & lower HIV risk). As an African bi woman, I know that HIV risk is not the reason why several Africans hate gays. Studies show that polygamy & a culture that allows men to have multiple mistresses, is a major factor causing HIV to spread on the continent. I bet several of these legislators who passed the bill have multiple wives/ girlfriends yet they didn’t make that illegal. African politicians just use us (African LGBTs) as scapegoats to gain mass approval & win elections.

  • Miss E

    It’s funny how these African leaders claim that homosexuality is ‘un-African’ while wearing their expensive suits imported from Italy, driving in their air-conditioned cars imported from Japan, sipping coca-cola & speaking the ‘Queen’s language’. Gays have been in Africa since the beginning of time & some African cultures embraced gays (Murray & Roscoe- Boy Wives, Female Husbands).I’m 100% African, living in Africa & bisexual. By the time I was 10, I knew I was attracted to women. So did I also ‘learn it’ from a foreigner? Love will always triumph hate. They can kill us, jail us, pass bills against us but they’ll never succeed in wiping us out of this continent. Even if it takes a 1000 years, the time will come where Africans will unite & accept one another- gay or straight.