Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni [official website; BBC profile] refused to sign a bill [press release] proposed by the nation’s Parliament [official website] that would toughen punishments for homosexuals in Uganda. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced [CNN report] in 2009 and the Ugandan Parliament passed the bill [JURIST report] last month. Homosexuality has long been illegal in Uganda, and the bill was introduced to inflict harsher penalties for the crime. The bill would impose life sentences [BBC report] for “aggravated homosexuality” and criminalize not reporting gay people. Museveni wrote a letter to the parliamentary speaker, criticized her for passing the bill without a quorum. In the letter, Museveni said that he believes homosexuals are sick and abnormal, but that they can be “rescued”. Museveni is attempting to reach a compromise with members of parliament, because they have the ability to pass the bill without his signature through a two-thirds vote.
The bill’s history has garnered international attention, and many see it as a reaction to major legislative reforms in support of same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] in the US and other Western nations. Last November the bill was bolstered [JURIST report] by religious leaders in Uganda. In February of that year Ugandan MP David Bahati announced that clauses mandating the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” would be dropped [JURIST report] from the controversial bill. In 2010 US President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined the US Congress in denouncing the bill [JURIST report]. Roughly two-thirds [BBC report, map] of African nations criminalize homosexuality, according to an Amnesty International report published earlier this year.