Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni, has refused to sign into law a controversial anti-LGBTQ+ bill making homosexuality punishable by death, requesting that it be returned to parliament to make it even harsher.
The decision was announced on Thursday after a meeting between the president and ruling party lawmakers, who pledged to return the hardline bill to the National Assembly “with proposals to improve it”.
Chief Whip Dennis Hamson Obua said the president has agreed in principle to sign the bill.
“Before doing so we have also agreed that the bill will be returned to facilitate reinforcement and to strengthen certain provisions in line with our best practices,” he told a news conference after the meeting.
Obua said Museveni would meet with parliament’s legal and parliamentary affairs committee on Tuesday to draft the amendments.
Museveni has 30 days to either sign the infamous law into law, return it to parliament for amendment, or veto it and inform the speaker of parliament. However, it may pass into law without the assent of the President if he returns it to Parliament twice.
The bill in its current form provides for capital and life-imprisonment for homosexual sex, up to 14 years for “attempted” homosexuality, and up to 20 years for “recruitment, promotion and funding” of same-sex “activities”. gives.
An earlier version of the bill prompted widespread international criticism and was later struck down by Uganda’s constitutional court on procedural grounds. In Uganda, a largely conservative Christian East African country, gay sex is already punishable by life imprisonment.
The bill, which was described last month by the UN human rights chief, Volker Turk “Shocking and discriminatory”It was passed almost unanimously by 389 MPs on 21 March.
Museveni has claimed that his government is attempting to resist Western attempts at “normalisation” by what he calls “divergence”. “Western countries should stop wasting humanity’s time trying to impose their practices on other peoples,” he said.
This week, a group of leading scientists and academics from Africa and around the world urged Museveni to veto the bill, saying that “homosexuality is a normal and natural variation of human sexuality”. A. Responding to Museveni’s call for Scientific and medical opinion on homosexualityThe authors of the paper wrote: “The science is absolutely clear on this subject.”
Professor Glenda Gray, president of the South African Medical Research Council, said: “Being homosexual is natural and normal, wherever it is around the world. Sexual orientation knows no boundaries. Despite the rhetoric, homosexuality is not a harmful Western import.
“If anything, it is state sponsored homophobia that is un-African and against the principles ubuntu [humanity toward others]Not homosexuality,” she said.
The decision to return the bill to Parliament drew mixed reactions, with human rights campaigners calling for it to be scrapped altogether.
“This is much-needed relief for the LGBTIQ community,” said Claire Byarugaba, an LGBT advocate in Kampala. do,
“If you never had a hateful state-sanctioned hate bill that is a matter of life and death hanging over your head every morning, hold your freedom dear. The struggle continues,” she wrote.
But supporters of the bill also welcomed the move. Pastor Martin Sempa, one of the main supporters of the bill, said, “It is a good step to include in the law an amnesty for those who leave voluntarily.” “And to include in the law a road map of rehabilitation including rehabilitation centres. Both the amendments are humane and valid,” he said.
Agnes Callamard, the secretary-general of Amnesty International, said the “deeply repressive” bill should be scrapped. “Instead of persecuting LGBTI people, the Ugandan authorities should protect their rights by aligning their laws with international human rights law and standards,” she said.
“Criminalizing consensual homosexual conduct grossly violates a number of human rights, including the right to dignity, equality before the law, equal protection by the law, and non-discrimination.”
On 17 April, a court in the eastern city of Jinja denied bail to six young teachers working for healthcare organizations after they were arrested for “being part of a criminal sex network”. The Ugandan police force confirmed that it had forcibly performed rectal examinations on six men and tested them for HIV.
More than 110 LGBTQ+ people in Uganda reported incidents including arrest, sexual violence, eviction and public stripping to the advocacy group Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMAUG) in February alone. The group said transgender people were disproportionately affected.