By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com February 14 2014 4:05 PM ET
Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has indicated that he is planning to sign into law the country's long-languishing Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which would impose lifetime jail sentences for certain instances of homosexuality and would sentence anyone who performs a same-sex marriage to seven years' imprisonment.
Government spokesman Ofwondo Opondo announced the decision on Twitter Friday, and a spokeswoman for the ruling National Resistance Movement confirmed the decision to BuzzFeed.
Opondo's tweets Friday afternoon noted, "The NRM caucus has welcomed the development as a measure to protect Ugandans from social deviants," and explained that "Ugandan traditionalists, religious leaders & politicians have been urging Museveni to sign the Bill."
Opondo also said the president was apparently swayed by a report presented at an ongoing parliamentary retreat where a dozen lawmakers "with medical backgrounds" claimed to have scientific proof that homosexuality was "socially acquired" and curable.
Human rights and LGBT advocates around the world were quick to condemn Museveni's decision to sign the bill, which was first introduced in Uganda's Parliament in 2009. At that time, the bill prescribed the death penalty for certain instances of "aggravated homosexuality," which included repeated same-sex sex acts between consenting adults, or any sex act where one person was HIV-positive, a minor, or mentally handicapped. The revised version of the legislation — hastily passed by Parliament December 20 — reportedly replaced the capital punishment provision with one calling for life imprisonment for such acts, but LGBT activists in Uganda note that they still have not seen the actual language of the bill and therefore can't confirm that the death penalty has been removed.
"President Museveni has been studying this bill for many months, weighing the politics and hearing from world leaders about the serious impact its enactment would have on Uganda's international status," said Robyn Lieberman of Human Rights First in a statement. "There should be no doubt that Museveni's latest words on the subject have been influenced by the reaction to similar legislation in Nigeria, Russia and elsewhere."
"Unless this bill is stopped from becoming law, lives will be destroyed, and countless people will be punished for an immutable characteristic," said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. "Anti-LGBT Americans advocated for laws further criminalizing LGBT people in Uganda, and it looks like they are now getting their wish. Whether it’s Brian Brown advocating for anti-LGBT laws in Russia or Scott Lively calling for the further criminalization of LGBT people in Uganda, anti-LGBT Americans must stop exporting their hate abroad."