Today, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, a wide-ranging bill that imposes seven years in jail for "the offense of homosexuality" (gay sex) and lifetime in jail for "aggravated homosexuality," which describes an array of offenses like incest, sex with a minor, and sex with a person with a disability. Uganda's The Observer reports, "The bill will formally become law when it gets published in the Uganda Gazette. That, however, remains a formality. For Uganda's largely anti-gay population, the most important part was the president's signature."
The bill's author, David Bhati, has maintained that this law is about protecting children (this has been his stance for years, since he was hawking a similar bill with a provision for the death penalty, then-dubbed the "Kill the Gays" bill). But of course that's not what it's about. It's never just about that. It's also about a president who's been in office for 28 years using an already powerless group of people as a sign of resistance to the deviance of western culture (even though anti-gay sentiment in Uganda was stoked in part by American evangelist Scott Lively).
It's about a willful misunderstanding of what it means to be gay. Says the Observer:
The president suggested he could not to understand how men could fail to be attracted to Uganda's beautiful women and, instead, get attracted to fellow men.
The president also paraded the mostly Ugandan scientists who concluded that homosexuality wasn't generic.
(I'm not sure why writer used the word "generic" over "genetic," when Museveni specifically said he was looking for a gay gene and that his scientists couldn't come up with one, big surprise. Maybe it's a typo.)
In any event, you can read the entire bill below, via Towleroad. In addition to banning gay people from having gay sex, it criminalizes the "attempt to commit homosexuality," the "promotion of homosexuality" (which includes internet porn and cruising), and "aiding and abetting homosexuality" ("A person who aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage in acts of homosexuality commits an offense and is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for seven years"). It makes "[purporting] to contract a marriage with another person of the same sex" punishable with life imprisonment (same-sex marriage is not legal in Uganda, so this likely refers to unofficial ceremonies). The penalty for conducting such a marriage brings a seven-year sentence.
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. 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. We will 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.
[Image via AFP/Getty]