Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni announced his intention to sign his country's brutal new anti-gay bill into law on Friday, according to a government spokesperson. Under the bill, any individual convicted of "aggravated homosexuality" in the country could go to prison for life. Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda. The new laws are much more aggressive.
Here's the announcement from government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo:
Pres Museveni has told NRM MPs he will assent the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law— Ofwono Opondo (@OfwonoOpondo) February 14, 2014
Reuters. Opondo added in a separate tweet that the president was swayed by 14 medical "experts," who "presented a report that homosexuality is not genetic but a social behaviour." He added that the MPs "welcomed the development as a measure to protect Ugandans from social deviants." Earlier, as J. Lester Feder reported at Buzzfeed, Museveni had indicated that he would support the bill if he "got confirmation from scientists that this condition is not genetic.”
According to BBC Africa, here's a summary of the evidence presented to the president:
A panel of Ugandan scientists made 6 observations on homosexuality to persuade the president to agree to the bill. pic.twitter.com/hxir8oy3kK— BBC Africa (@BBCAfrica) February 14, 2014
The announcement is a reversal from an earlier statement by the President, which seemed to strongly suggest that he would not sign the bill into law — but not because he supported the rights of LGBT individuals. His logic at that time was that homosexuality was a biological "abnormality." Museveni's seeming reluctance to sign the bill prompted a worldwide day of protest, with activists urging him to leave it unsigned. Earlier on Friday, Museveni backed a proposal to deny bail to anyone arrested under the country's anti-sodomy laws, which can now be perceived as an indication that he was going to sign the "jail the gays" bill after all.
The "jail the gays" bill is a slightly less awful version of a bill that's been percolating in Uganda's parliament for years. Originally, the bill sponsored by Member of Parliament David Bahati allowed for the death penalty in "aggravated homosexuality" cases, but Bahati has said that the version that will become law has a maximum punishment of "life imprisonment" instead. The bill was in part inspired by the advocacy of several anti-gay fundamentalists from the U.S., as we explained when the bill passed Parliament in December. Among other things, American activists like Scott Lively have promoted the (obviously false) theory that there is a western "gay agenda" that is trying to recruit Ugandans into homosexuality.
In addition having their existence criminalized, LGBT individuals in the country have been subject to beatings, harassment, and "corrective rape" over the years, all in the name of protecting Ugandans from "abnormal" people. Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato was murdered in 2011, a year after the Ugandan news magazine Rolling Stone put his photo on their cover, near the words "Hang Them."
This post on a developing story has been updated with new information.