Tuesday, 25 February 2014 12:22

Uganda Stiffens Penalties for Homosexuality

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Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (shown) has signed into law a bill that stiffens penalties for those found guilty of homosexual acts. Homosexual behavior is already prohibited in the country, but under the new law, reported the BBC, individuals may be imprisoned for life if convicted of “aggravated homosexuality,” and may also be punished for promoting homosexuality, encouraging others to identify as homosexual, or speaking positively about such issues as same-sex marriage.

Also, for the first time lesbians will be included in prohibitions against homosexual behavior in the country. Time magazine noted that earlier drafts of the bill had made it a crime “not to report gay people — in effect making it impossible to live as openly gay — but this clause has been removed.”

Museveni had initially laid aside the legislation, introduced last year, as he reportedly awaited counsel from U.S. researchers on the scientific evidence concerning the roots of homosexuality. But at a ceremony following the signing of the bill, Museveni said that “no study has shown you can be homosexual by nature. That's why I have agreed to sign the bill.”

Additionally, according to a Ugandan government spokesman, Museveni ultimately signed the bill as a declaration of “Uganda’s independence in the face of Western pressure.”

That pressure came in the form of strong statements from both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. In a prepared statement Kerry warned that the new law “threatens a dangerous slide backward in Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people and a serious threat to the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] community in Uganda.”

Similarly, the Obama administration reacted strongly to the news, calling the new law “abhorrent,” with White House press secretary Jay Carney declaring that “instead of standing on the side of freedom, justice, and equal rights for its people, today, regrettably, Ugandan President Museveni took Uganda a step backward by signing into law legislation criminalizing homosexuality.”

Carney added that “as President Obama has said, this law is more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda, it reflects poorly on the country's commitment to protecting the human rights of its people and will undermine public health, including efforts to fight HIV/AIDS.”

Carney said that President Obama would “continue to urge the Ugandan government to repeal this abhorrent law and to advocate for the protection of the universal human rights of LGBT persons in Uganda and around the world.”

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague registered his nation's disappointment over the bill, saying he was “deeply saddened and disappointed that the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda has been signed into law.” He warned that the new measure may violate Uganda's own constitution as well as its “international treaty obligations,” adding that it will doubtless “increase persecution and discrimination of Ugandans, as well as damage Uganda's reputation internationally. We ask the government of Uganda to protect all its citizens and encourage tolerance, equality, and respect.”

But Museveni resisted the pressure applied by other nations, emphasizing that “outsiders cannot dictate to us” his country's response to moral issues. “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.”

Museveni noted that there are “myriad acts that societies in the West do that we frown on or even detest. We, however, never comment on those acts or make them preconditions for working with the West. Africans do not seek to impose their views on anybody. We do not want anybody to impose their views on us.”

The sponsor of the bill, Ugandan MP David Bahati, insisted that homosexuality is a “behavior that can be learned and can be unlearned,” adding that it “is just bad behavior that should not be allowed in our society.” Bahati said that because Uganda is a “God-fearing nation, we value life in a holistic way. It is because of those values that members of parliament passed this bill regardless of what the outside world thinks.”

The Washington Post reported that Uganda's new law “comes six weeks after Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law a ban on homosexuality that imposes 14-year prison terms for anyone entering a same-sex union. It also sets 10-year prison sentences for those who run gay clubs or organizations.”

Photo of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni: AP Images

6 comments

  • Comment Link James Thursday, 27 February 2014 18:59 posted by James

    The main discussion here is based on the term 'homosexual' which was coined in 1895 to identify same sex practices. That was the first move to take away the real meaning, 'sodomy'. Sodomy is practiced by both sexes and male/female relationships and even among married couples. So, if you are going punish one part of the public for practicing homosexuality/sodomy, punish all offenders.

  • Comment Link John Tuesday, 25 February 2014 14:03 posted by John

    Ok Keith, I asked an adult to help me read the article. The headline of this article certainly isn't pushing hatred and ignorance. The Facebook excerpt does have a "slant" to it, but it still accurately depicts what happened without saying it was good or bad. The author of this article really doesn't take a position on the issue one way or the other (at least not in this article). Saying this new law is bad (or good) is taking a position on it. Personally, I do not feel that it is a proper function of government to tell people who they can and can't have sex with, or get married to for that matter. Government should stay out of it. The same with drug use. That being said, I also do not feel that America should be trying to change the culture of other countries or tell them how to run their governments just because we are a bigger country and we can invade them or cripple them economically. This is a big part of why we are perceived as an arrogant bully by many countries in the world.

  • Comment Link Mikey-Pinkie Rings Tuesday, 25 February 2014 13:53 posted by Mikey-Pinkie Rings

    When Israel was a theocracy, run by God Himself, homosexuality was punishable by death. In the U.S., we often see the moral code as not being part of the appropriate legislation passed by the federal government. Remember that this prohibition in large part is due to our Constitution.

  • Comment Link Keith Simmons Tuesday, 25 February 2014 13:06 posted by Keith Simmons

    Well, they certainly do those things with their headline here, as well as with the excerpt they're using on Facebook:

    "Uganda's president has defied Obama and other pro-gay Western Nations, signing a law that stiffens penalties for homosexual behavior."

    It's not the covering of it which is objectionable, it's the attempt to frame aggressive, violent discrimination as benevolently as possible. They also forget to call him "The President of The United States," when they address Barry. You might have to read it carefully, or with the help of an adult, to pick up on the nuanced language used to control you. If you oppose dignity for people who are different, expect equal rights, or are just opposed to NOT GETTING MURDERED for generally harmless variations some find icky....then you must be, "pro-gay." That's the problem, John.

  • Comment Link John Tuesday, 25 February 2014 12:04 posted by John

    So according to Keith Simmons, TNA is "keeping hatred and ignorance alive" either by simply reporting on this story or by "using smaller, more malleable governments overseas to revive regressive, oppressive superstitions and stigmas." TNA is doing all that? Wow. I guess Time, John Kerry, Obama, Washington Post, and BBC are all doing that, too, because they talked about this incident as well. Unbelievable.

  • Comment Link Keith Simmons Tuesday, 25 February 2014 11:50 posted by Keith Simmons

    Without the support of moneyed bigots here in the US, these efforts to torture, murder, and terrorize innocent citizens abroad would be private movements instead of state-sponsored activities. Thanks to JBS, and TNA, for keeping hatred and ignorance alive, while leading the drive for a paranoia-fueled sabotage of domestic government...you can use smaller, more malleable governments overseas to revive regressive, oppressive superstitions and stigmas. Because that's what Jesus would have wanted, to be sure.

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