Uganda president sends anti-homosexuality bill back to Parliament

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni Thursday declined to sign the Anti-homosexuality Bill that sought to impose harsher sanctions on same-sex sexual conduct. Instead, Museveni sent the bill back down to Parliament. The move comes amidst international calls for Museveni to reject the bill.

According to a press release from Uganda’s ruling party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), Museveni sent the bill back to Parliament to incorporate “a provision for amnesty for those who will have come out to be helped not to punish them.” The current version of the bill, according to Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka criminalizes homosexual behavior, even when people voluntarily come forward seeking help.

Museveni, who openly opposes LGBTQ+ rights, said of the bill, “I agree with the bill but my original problem is the physiologically disoriented person…[H]ow do you provide for him to come out?” Museveni asked Parliament to “quickly deal” with the issue and send it back to him for final passage into law.

Chief Whip Denis Hamson Obua at a news conference after the meeting said “the bill will be returned in order to facilitate the reinforcement and the strengthening of some provisions in line with our best practices.”

The international community has condemned the bill, with UN experts claiming the legislation is “a breach of article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk warned that he bill, “if signed into force, will have serious negative repercussions on society as a whole, and erode gains made over years.” Amnesty International Secretary General Agnés Callamard echoed the UN, stating:

This Bill also flies in the face of a resolution on protecting LGBTI people agreed by the African Commission on human and people’s rights, while its callous recommendation of the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’ makes it one of the most extreme anti-LGBTI laws in the world and further violates international standards on death penalty.

The Ugandan Parliament passed the bill on March 21. If Museveni signs the bill into law, it will make the “promotion” of homosexuality punishable by 20 years’ imprisonment and homosexual sex acts punishable by life imprisonment. In its current form, the bill also allows the death penalty for engaging in “aggravated acts of homosexuality,” which is when one of the persons has HIV or a disability. The bill was preceded by called by the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014, which was struck down by Uganda’s Constitutional Court.

The bill comes in the midst of agitation for LGBTQ+ rights in Africa after Kenya’s Supreme Court protected their right to association and non-discrimination among other human rights.