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Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has refused to sign a controversial Bill which would outlaw homosexuality.
As So So Gay reported in December, the new law establishes life sentences for any form of penetration or sexual stimulation of a person of the same-sex, as well as for ‘aggravated’ homosexuality, which would apply to ‘serial offenders’, among others. It also makes it illegal not to report gay people.
The Bill was voted in without enough MPs present, causing the President to reject it, however, he is likely to reach a compromise with MPs, as parliament can still force it through with a two-thirds vote. The president’s eight-page letter to speaker Rebecca Kadaga said that instead of making homosexual people illegal, they could be ‘rescued’ by improving the economy. He disputed the view that homosexuality could be described as an ‘alternative sexual orientation’.
Campaigners including Peter Tatchell had previously held campaigns to persuade Museveni to veto the Bill. The protest saw many Africans chanting: ‘Gay rights in Uganda. Gay rights in Africa. Gay rights everywhere.’
They were also heard singing: ‘2-4-6-8. Museveni, don’t hesitate. 3-5-7-9. Stop the anti-gay bill, don’t sign.’
The Bill, which was dubbed the ‘Jail the Gays’ Bill, wanted to extend the current penalty to life imprisonment for anal intercourse, and even same-sex kissing. It also introduced jail terms for five to seven years to those who promote homosexuality, including assisting or participating in LGBT events.
Article 145 of the existing penal code already punishes ‘carnal knowledge against the order of nature’, a colonial-era term used across the former British empire which understood to refer to sex between men, with life imprisonment. The new text would have extended the punishment to sexual relations between women.
Human rights activists said the bill highlights the intolerance and discrimination the gay community faces in Uganda: a gay activist was killed in 2011, although the police denied he was targeted because of his sexuality.