President Obama has warned Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni that approving his country’s anti-gay law will “complicate” Uganda’s relationship with the US.
Obama slammed the law, which will dramatically harshen existing penalties against gays and lesbians, in a statement issued by The White House on Sunday.
“As a country and a people, the United States has consistently stood for the protection of fundamental freedoms and universal human rights. We believe that people everywhere should be treated equally, with dignity and respect, and that they should have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, no matter who they are or whom they love,” said Obama.
“That is why I am so deeply disappointed that Uganda will shortly enact legislation that would criminalise homosexuality. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, once law, will be more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda. It will be a step backward for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people. It also will mark a serious setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice and equal rights.
“As we have conveyed to President Museveni, enacting this legislation will complicate our valued relationship with Uganda. At a time when, tragically, we are seeing an increase in reports of violence and harassment targeting members of the LGBT community from Russia to Nigeria, I salute all those in Uganda and around the world who remain committed to respecting the human rights and fundamental human dignity of all persons,” said the American president.
The statement follows news that Museveni has agreed to sign the legislation, which was approved by parliament in December, after receiving a report by a group of scientists from Uganda’s Ministry of Health and Makerere University concluding that “homosexuality is not genetic but a social behaviour.” This flies in the face of growing international research that indicates otherwise.
Speaking at his party’s caucus retreat in Kyankwanzi on Saturday, Museveni said: “There is no scientific proof yet that people are homosexuals by genetics.
“It is on the strength of that I am going to sign the bill. I know we are going to have a big battle with the outside groups about this, but I will tell them what our scientists have to say.”
Anal sex between men is already illegal in Uganda, with penalties including life imprisonment. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill extends the ban to any kind of same-sex sex and punishes “aggravated homosexuality” with life imprisonment.
In addition, anyone who “aids, abets [or] counsels” any gay person and anyone who rents a home or room to a gay person could also be sentenced to seven years in jail.
The bill further includes criminal penalties of three to seven years in prison for anyone who fails to turn over gay people to the police or anyone who “promotes” homosexuality.