Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has refused to sign into law the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2023 and sent it back to Parliament for “strengthening.”
Mr Museveni’s decision was announced late Thursday after he met with lawmakers in his ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, almost all of whom supported the bill.
The meeting ended with a decision to return the bill to parliament “with proposals for its improvement,” a statement said. It was not clear what the president’s recommendations were. The Ugandan parliament passed the bill on March 21, and the president must sign it for it to become law.
NRM chief whip Denis Hamson Obua said on Thursday 20, April 2023 that Mr Museveni would meet Tuesday 25, April 2023 with the parliament’s legal and parliamentary affairs committee to draft amendments to the bill.
Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda — as it is in more than 30 of Africa’s 54 countries — under a colonial-era law criminalizing sex acts “against the order of nature.” The punishment is life imprisonment.
Mr Museveni is a strong opponent of LGBTQ rights. Last month, he described gay people as “deviants.” However, he is under pressure from the international community to veto the bill. UN experts say the bill, if passed, would be “an egregious violation of human rights,” and the US has warned of economic consequences if the legislation is enacted.
Last month, US secretary of state Antony Blinken “urged the Ugandan government to strongly consider [the impact of] the implementation of this legislation,” saying via Twitter that the bill “could reverse gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”
The bill prescribes the death penalty for the offence of “aggravated homosexuality,” defined as sexual relations involving people infected with HIV as well as minors and other categories of vulnerable people. It also includes life imprisonment for “homosexuality.”
Jail terms of up to 20 years are proposed for those who advocate or promote LGBTQ rights in Uganda. Under the bill, a suspect convicted of “attempted aggravated homosexuality” can be jailed for 14 years, and the offence of “attempted homosexuality” is punishable by up to 10 years.
The the Anti-Homosexuality bill has widespread support in Uganda, including among church leaders. It was introduced by a lawmaker who said his goal was to punish the “promotion, recruitment and funding” of LGBTQ activities in the country. Only two of 389 legislators present for the voting session opposed the bill.