In a rare display of sense, Uganda president Yoweri Museveni has vetoed the country's harsh anti-gay bill approved a month ago in Parliament. The bill would have imprisoned those who performed gay marriages, and legally required citizens to report incidents of homosexual acts — which could have carried a life sentence. While it's good news that isn't going to happen, Museveni still managed to be a jerk about it: There exist better ways to "rescue" people, he said, from the "abnormality" that is homosexuality.
Africa isn't exactly known for being liberal when it comes to gay rights. Uganda is its most egregious hotspot for anti-gay sentiment, which often turns into violence against gay citizens and activists. There, homosexuality has been illegal since colonial times, and it was only in 2012 that the first gay-pride parade was held.
As we reported, the vetoed bill was actually a weaker version of the original legislation. That one made its way through Parliament too, and would have made being gay a death sentence.
The parliament defines “aggravated homosexuality” as ”a homosexual act where one of the partners is infected with HIV, sex with minors and the disabled, as well as repeated sexual offenses among consenting adults.” Poor syntax aside, the legislation would therefore bar sexual relations between consenting, same-sex adult partners.
Somewhat surprisingly, the legislation, though dire, isn’t as bad as the bill’s previous incarnation. Introduced four years ago, that version of the bill made homosexuality a crime carrying the death sentence, and required citizens to report acts of homosexual sex within 24 hours. Luckily that version was withdrawn, and the bill was shelved until now.
Much of Uganda's problem with homosexuality is rooted in long-held religious beliefs, not to mention the "traditional family values" that some fear Western influence is corrupting.
“I am glad the Parliament has voted against evil,” MP David Bahati, who wrote the original 2009 legislation, said. “Because we are a God-fearing nation, we value life in a holistic way … It is because of those values that members of Parliament passed this bill regardless of what the outside world thinks.”
Bahati is a key Ugandan member of The Family, a Christian fundamentalist group with heavy political connections on Capitol Hill.
In his veto, Museveni wrote: "The question at the core of the debate on homosexuality is what do we do with an abnormal person? Do we kill him/her? Do we imprison him/her? Or we do contain him/her?
"You cannot call an abnormality an alternative orientation," he continued. "It could be that the Western societies, on account of random breeding, have generated many abnormal people."
And what's Museveni's "fix" for homosexuality in Uganda for now? Bizarrely, it's "economic rehabilitation," because apparently gay people become gay because they're facing financial hardship. The economic reform includes modernizing agriculture and rapidly industrializing.
Because that makes sense.
In spite of his best efforts, Museveni has not managed to eradicate the LGBT community in his country, or even come close: Uganda remains one of the world's premier consumers of gay porn.