Museveni says homosexuals are “mercenaries” and “prostitutes”
as he signs law setting harsh penalties for gay practices
Uganda’s president has signed a controversial anti-gay bill that allows harsh penalties for “homosexual offences”, calling them “mercenaries” and “prostitutes”.
Yoweri Museveni on Monday signed the bill, which holds that homosexuals be jailed for long terms, outlaws the promotion of homosexuality and requires people to denounce gays.
He denounced gays and spoke in lurid detail about sexual activity while signing one of the world’s toughest anti-gay laws, which has come under fierce criticism from the US president, Barack Obama, who has warned that ties between Kampala and Washington would be damaged.
“Homosexuals are actually mercenaries. They are heterosexual people but because of money they say they are homosexuals. These are prostitutes because of money,” Musaveni said.
He added “there is something really wrong with you” if you were gay, adding that he didn’t understand how a man could “fail to be attracted to all these beautiful women and be attracted to a man”.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Uganda’s minister for ethics and integrity, Simon Lokodo, said that homosexuality was “contrary to the order of nature and therefore it is illegal”. He said he could teach gay people to be straight, and had done so.
The bill is popular in Uganda, but rights groups have condemned it as draconian in a country where homosexuality is already illegal. “Outsiders cannot dictate to us, this is our country,” said Museveni. “I advise friends from the West not to make this an issue, because if they make it an issue the more they will lose.”
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. Homophobia is widespread in Uganda, where American-style evangelical Christianity is on the rise. Gay men and women in Uganda face frequent harassment and threats of violence, and rights activists have reported cases of lesbians being subjected to “corrective” rapes.
In 2011, prominent Ugandan gay rights campaigner David Kato was bludgeoned to death at his home after a newspaper splashed photos, names and addresses of gays in Uganda on its front page along with a yellow banner reading “Hang Them”. Uganda is a key Western ally in the fight against armed groups in Somalia where Ugandan troops have formed the backbone of the African Union peacekeeping force battling al Qaeda-linked fighters.