Africa

Uganda's president expected to sign anti-gay Bill

Sapa-AP

Despite international pressure and rights groups condemneding it, President Yoweri Museveni is expected to sign a controversial anti-gay Bill.

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni. (Reuters)

Uganda's president is expected to sign a controversial anti-gay Bill that allows harsh penalties for homosexual offences.

The Uganda Media Centre said on Monday that President Yoweri Museveni will sign the Bill at 11am local time (0800 GMT) at his official residence.

The Bill is popular in Uganda, but rights groups have condemned it as draconian in a country where homosexuality is already illegal.

The law punishes first-time offenders with 14 years in jail. It also sets life imprisonment as the penalty for acts of "aggravated homosexuality". The Bill originally proposed the death penalty for some homosexual acts, but that was later removed amid international criticism.

US President Barack Obama has urged Museveni not to sign the Bill, saying doing so would "complicate" the east African country's relationship with Washington.

'Recruit children into homosexuality'
Meanwhile, Uganda's president said he wants no lectures from Western governments opposed to the country's controversial anti-gay Bill.

Museveni, who faced pressure within the ruling party to sign the anti-gay Bill, said in a statement released on Friday that countries "should relate with each other on the basis of mutual respect and independence".

"Africans do not seek to impose their views on anybody," Museveni said in the statement, which was published in the government-controlled New Vision as a response to US criticism of the Bill. "We do not want anybody to impose their views on us. This very debate was provoked by Western groups who come to our schools and try to recruit children into homosexuality. It is better to limit the damage rather than exacerbate it."

Obama said in a statement on Sunday that the Bill is a "step backward for all Ugandans" and warned that enacting it would "complicate" the East African country's relationship with Washington.

The Bill is widely popular in Uganda, where it has been championed by Christian clerics and politicians who say it is necessary to deter Western homosexuals from "recruiting" Ugandan children. Some Ugandan gays say the measure was orchestrated in 2009 by US evangelicals who wanted to spread their anti-gay agenda in Africa.

The Bill originally proposed the death penalty for a category of offences called "aggravated homosexuality", defined to include repeated sex among consenting adults as well as sex acts involving minors or a partner infected with HIV. Amid international pressure including the threat to withdraw aid by European countries such as Sweden, the death penalty was removed.

Debate about homosexuality
Pepe Julian Onziema, a prominent Ugandan gay activist, said on Friday that he will challenge the legislation in court after the president signs it. Presidential spokesperson Sarah Kagingo said on Friday that "activists do not determine how the president runs the country".

Lawmakers passed the Bill in December.

Museveni also said he is open to debate about homosexuality and that he does "encourage the US government to help us by working with our scientists to study whether, indeed, there are people who are born homosexual. When that is proved, we can review this legislation." – Sapa-AP

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