Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Uganda’s Museveni to Consult Lawmakers on Anti-LGBTQ Bill


Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is set to meet with lawmakers from his party to discuss a controversial anti-LGBTQ bill before a deadline to sign it, veto it, or send it back for revisions. The bill, which was passed in March with near unanimous support in parliament, has been criticised by human rights activists and the United States government as one of the harshest pieces of legislation targeting sexual minorities anywhere in the world. While more than 30 African countries, including Uganda, already ban same-sex relationships, the new law appears to be the first to outlaw merely identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ). Human Rights Watch has reported that it would impose the death penalty for so-called aggravated homosexuality, which includes having gay sex when HIV-positive, and 20-year sentences for “promoting” homosexuality. The law has already triggered a wave of arrests, evictions and mob attacks against Uganda’s LGBTQ community.

Museveni has 30 days from when parliament sent him the bill to weigh in. However, it is not clear when it was forwarded to him. The president, a strong opponent of LGBTQ rights who last month called gay people “deviations from normal”, has not indicated what he plans to do. In 2014, he signed a law that toughened penalties for same-sex relations but has also suggested at times that homosexuality should be addressed through treatment rather than legislation. That law was nullified within months on procedural grounds by a domestic court.

The meeting with lawmakers from his National Resistance Movement party is scheduled to begin at 2pm (11:00 GMT) at the presidential palace. Same-sex relations are already illegal in Uganda, as they are in more than 30 African countries, but proponents of the bill said stronger legislation was needed to combat the threat homosexuality presents to traditional family values. Lawmakers in neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania have recently called for similar measures in their countries.

The bill has been met with widespread condemnation from human rights groups and the international community. Amnesty International has called on Museveni to reject the bill, stating that it would violate Uganda’s obligations under international law and lead to further discrimination and violence against LGBTQ people. The United States government has also expressed concern, with a spokesperson for the State Department saying that the bill would “further criminalise consensual same-sex conduct, enshrine discrimination and persecution into law, and undermine the fundamental human rights of all Ugandans”.

The bill has also been criticised by religious leaders in Uganda. The Anglican Church of Uganda, which has previously been supportive of anti-LGBTQ legislation, released a statement in March saying that the bill was “not helpful” and that it would “further marginalise” LGBTQ people. The Catholic Church in Uganda has also spoken out against the bill, with Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga saying that it would “bring more conflict, hatred and violence towards homosexuals”.

Despite this opposition, the bill has received support from some quarters in Uganda. A group of religious leaders and activists held a press conference in March to express their support for the bill, stating that it was necessary to protect traditional family values and prevent the spread of homosexuality. The group also criticised the international community for interfering in Uganda’s internal affairs.

The fate of the bill now rests with Museveni. If he signs it into law, Uganda will join a small group of countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, that impose the death penalty for consensual same-sex relations. If he vetoes it, parliament could override his decision with a two-thirds majority vote. If he sends it back for revisions, it could be amended and sent back to him for approval. Whatever happens, the LGBTQ community in Uganda is likely to face continued discrimination and violence, with or without the new law.

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