Ugandan President Will Sign Draconian, Discriminatory Anti-Gay Bill Into Law
President Yoweri Museveni said Friday he'll sign Uganda's hideous anti-gay bill into law, consigning people found guilty of "aggravated homosexuality" to potential life-imprisonment. This bill has received a lot of ink over the roughly four years since it was published by Ugandan MP David Bahati. The original version of the law allowed for the execution of gay people, but international pressure seemed to spur the change to a simple lifetime as a prisoner. Regardless, this is a horrible day.
Up until today, Museveni had been in an odd, waffling position regarding the bill: Last month he said he wouldn't sign it at the same time that he called homosexuals "abnormal," insisting they could be "rescued." This is the type of second-rate moral and scientific thought Museveni has consistently applied to this issue. He opposed the bill on the ostensible belief that homosexuality was genetic, not a choice, then convened an alleged team of 'medical experts' to convince himself otherwise.
This is as tragic and wrenching an outcome as could be for LGBT persons and allies worldwide, but especially for those living on the ground in Uganda. It's no doubt been a harrowing four years, facing down the possibility of this bill passing and fundamentally changing the lives of so many innocent people.
The law doesn't just criminalize repeated, consensual acts of homosexuality. It also threatens prison time for anyone who knows homosexual sex is occurring and doesn't turn people in. It imposes a seven-year sentence for anybody who officiates a gay marriage. It's a full-fledged effort not just to stigmatize and brutalize the LGBT population, but to terrorize and threaten any liberal or moderating allies. It's not just the government hating gay people, it's a demand of complicity, by force, of everyone else in Ugandan society.
This is a dispiritingly common tact amongst governmental sources supportive of the law, and one which the bill's author David Bahati tried to use in an infamous 2010 interview with Rachel Maddow. It's a familiar fallback attitude in defense of policies codifying rank discrimination or persecution. The false logic goes something like: 'Hey, you don't get our culture here. Our homosexuals are different — they prey on children. This is a sovereign state! You can oppose the law, but do you need to be so upset about it?'
His bewilderment that people care so much — and feel so much passion and disgust at anti-gay discrimination — is telling.
There are rumblings that the law's passage could spark an exodus of gay Ugandans. It is sadder still that so many — like David Kato, Uganda's foremost LGBT activist who was brutally murdered in 2011 — won't live to see their country learn to accept them as human beings.
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