A Uganda Anti-Gay Bill Was Just Signed, And You Won't Believe What it Outlaws

Although it comes as no surprise, today is nonetheless a sad day for LGBT rights in the world, as, on Monday, President Yoweri Museveni signed Uganda' calamitous anti-gay bill into law. Although toned down from its original version (which proposed the death penalty for homosexual acts), the new legislation is still sweeping in its powers, essentially making it impossible to be openly gay in the country.

Until last week, it actually wasn't obvious that the draconian bill would be signed. Museveni seemed to sway back and forth on the matter, for a short while promising to hold off after President Obama called the bill "more than an affront, and a danger to, Uganda's gay community. It will be a step backwards for all Ugandans." But, ten days ago, Museveni made the announcement that he would be penning his signature, and, today, he followed through.

"No study has shown you can be homosexual by nature, that's why I have agreed to sign the bill," Museveni said Monday amid loud applause, shortly after the signing ceremony.

The new law makes it illegal to engage in even a single act of homosexuality. "First-time offenders" are now looking at 14 years in jail, acts of "aggravated homosexuality" could mean life imprisonment. And it gets worse: someone who officiates a same-sex wedding ceremony could be slammed behind bars for ten years, and even anyone who doesn't report gay activity faces prison time — effectively creating a fear-fueled police state. Almost more terrifying, just the "recognition" of same-sex relations "through or with the support of any government entity in Uganda or any other non-governmental organisation inside or outside the country" is now also illegal.

"Outsiders cannot dictate to us, this is our country," Museveni said. "I advise friends from the West not to make this an issue, because if they make it an issue the more they will lose."

An issue it most certainly will be. As Human Rights Watch explain in a statement, the implications are wide and pretty terrifying:

The Ugandan Human Rights Commission, Uganda Law Society, and the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative have all publicly criticized the Anti-Homosexuality bill as unconstitutional.Because the bill criminalizes the undefined “promotion” of homosexuality, there are far-reaching implications beyond the increase in punishments for same-sex sexual conduct. If the bill is passed, a person could go to prison simply for expressing an opinion. Public health promotion and prevention efforts targeting “at risk” groups might have to be curtailed, and health educators and health care providers could be at risk of criminal prosecution.

"If the West does not want to work with us because of homosexuals, then we have enough space to ourselves here," Museveni added.

You enjoy that space, Museveni.