The President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni
There’s some relief as President Yoweri Museveni refuses to sign a repressive new bill that would further criminalise same-sex relations in Uganda.
On Tuesday, local media and activist groups reported that the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among told MPs that she’d been informed by Museveni that he’d rejected the Sexual Offenses Bill.
It’s understood that the president justified not signing the bill because it included offences that are already part of the country’s penal code.
“I now direct the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee to scrutinise the matters raised by the president then report back to parliament,” said Among.
While it’s unclear if MPs will choose to redraft and attempt to pass an amended version of the bill, the group Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) welcomed the news. “Our community is safe for now. We continue to push for decriminalisation,” it said on Facebook.
The Sexual Offenses Bill was approved by parliament in May. It laudably addressed issues such as rape and child sex trafficking but also sought to further criminalise same-sex sexual acts.
While these are already illegal under the country’s colonial-era penal code as “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” the new legislation went further by defining this as “The penetration of another person’s anus with [a] sexual organ or with any object” and “a sexual act between persons of the same gender.”
Another alarming element in the bill was the criminalisation of sex workers with a sentence of up to seven years in prison. HIV positive people who are found guilty of rape were also be punished for “aggravated rape” and could face the death penalty.
Ugandan lawmakers are notoriously obsessed with homosexuality. In 2014, the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act was made law but the Constitutional Court of Uganda soon after invalidated it on procedural grounds. Bigoted MPs have ever since repeatedly threatened to pass new anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.