Museveni vetoes Ugandan anti-gay bill after Nigeria law takes effect

London, 11th July 2012. London Summit on Family Planning

You know it’s been a bad week for LGBT rights in sub-Saharan Africa when the best news came from a leader who referred to gays and lesbians as ‘abnormal persons,’ with an illness to be treated.nigeria_flag_iconuganda

But considering that Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan signed into law on Monday the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which criminalizes not only ‘amorous’ same-sex relationships, but also registration, operation or participation in gay clubs, societies or organizations (including, potentially, US and other Western human rights organizations active in Nigeria), Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni’s decision to veto an anti-gay bill on Friday was somewhat of a triumph, even if the veto was shrouded in a bizarre — and still virulently anti-gay — message:

The President said a homosexual is somebody who is abnormal because the normal person was created to be attracted to the opposite sex in order to procreate and perpetuate the human race. He said, nature goes wrong in a minority of cases.  While in the Bill passed by Parliament there is no provision for killing homosexuals; the President said, “The question at the core of the debate of 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?”

While the President said homosexuality is an abnormal condition that can be cured, he disagreed with the position of Western countries that homosexuality is an “alternative sexual orientation”. “You cannot call an abnormality an alternative orientation. It could be that the Western societies, on account of random breeding, have generated many abnormal people,” he said, adding that his acid test for rejecting Western position is that nature is purposeful.

Uganda and Nigeria are at the heart of an increasingly widening debate within sub-Saharan Africa over homosexuality, and Uganda’s proposed anti-gay laws have been widely covered in the international media.

The current bill, passed in December 2013 by Uganda’s parliament, which is dominated by the National Resistance Movement that’s controlled Uganda since Museveni (pictured above) came to power in 1986, would criminalize same-sex sexual intercourse, with penalties of life imprisonment for Ugandans convicted of ‘homosexuality.’  The bill also creates obligations for Ugandan citizens to report suspected gay and lesbian individuals to the police, and it criminalizes providing advisory services to gay and lesbian individuals.  The latter provision could endanger all sorts of public health initiatives in Uganda, especially with respect to HIV/AIDS.

Earlier versions of the bill mandated the death penalty for gays and lesbians, which number an estimated 500,000 people among Uganda’s population of over 36 million.

Though Museveni blocked the law on technical grounds (that the parliament passed it without a legal quorum), he’s certain to have watched the international condemnation that fell on Nigeria earlier this week when Jonathan signed the Nigerian anti-gay bill, which is already being used to arrest dozens of LGBT individuals and activists.  Nigeria’s nearly $260 billion economy, which has ample oil and mineral wealth and which is expected to overtake South Africa as the continent’s largest economy by the end of the decade, means that it isn’t as dependent upon development aid as other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.  Uganda, with a $20 billion economy, stands to lose much more if Western governments believe it’s committed to enacting human rights abuses through anti-gay measures.

But same-sex sexual activity — or, more accurately, ‘carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature’ — is already criminalized under Ugandan law, with penalties of up to life imprisonment, just as it was under British colonial rule in the 20th century.  In 2005, Uganda amended its constitution expressly to prohibit same-sex marriage.

The current efforts to enact a harsher Ugandan anti-gay statute date to 2009, when David Bahati introduced the bill in the Ugandan parliament.

Though it’s possible to trace the legal roots of criminalization in Uganda and Nigeria to the British colonial era, it’s not just former British colonies that are suddenly enacting new anti-gay legislation or enforcing existing statues with additional vigor.  Senegal, on the west African coast, and a former French colony, recently arrested five women under its own law, which provides up to five years in prison for same-sex conduct.  Thirty-six African countries (out of 54) currently criminalize homosexuality, which makes it one of the most dangerous regions in the world for gays and lesbians, as the following graphic from The Economist shows:


It’s by no means the only problematic region.  Russian president Vladimir Putin, for example, enacted a tough ‘anti-propaganda’ law last year that curbs the freedom to advocate for LGBT rights, which led to several US-based boycott calls and which could overshadow the Winter Olympics next month in Sochi.  India’s Supreme Court recently enacted a ruling that reinstated Section 377, which effectively criminalizes same-sex conduct.

Conversely, not all African countries approach homosexuality with the same harsh attitudes — South Africa became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2006, and Mozambique, Botswana, Seychelles, Mauritius and Cape Verde have each enacted some protections against discrimination.

But even if Western countries first enshrined LGBT inequality in the legal codes of sub-Saharan Africa, the anti-gay legislation movements have a significant nationalist, anti-Western component to them, with their proponents painting homosexuality as a foreign phenomenon and attacking Western countries for what they believe is an attempt to impose homosexuality within their countries.  For leaders like Jonathan, who faces regional and religious tensions and the ongoing pressures of governing an underdeveloped country of nearly 170 million people, enacting new anti-gay laws is a popular move

“I thought the Western world will so much pressurize us to bow to it, but hearing that the president signed against it, in fact it’s a kudos.  I’m very glad that he could stand [on] his feet and sign against such a taboo, because, I mean, it’s un-African,” said one citizen. “We don’t want such a thing in our country.” 

Moreover, while the US, European and other governments tread lightly on LGBT rights in sub-Saharan Africa (lest even more countries try to whip up anti-Western sentiment on the backs of gay and lesbian Africans), US-based evangelicals have been working for years in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa to denounce homosexuality.  Filmmaker Roger Ross Williams chronicled the link between US evangelicals and the rise in anti-gay sentiment in his 2013 documentary, God Loves Uganda:

He believes that powerful evangelical leaders have a larger agenda:  “Everyone I’ve talked to in my film has said, ‘You know, look: America’s lost.’ As marriage equality has passed, America is lost to them, but they are winning the war in Uganda.  And they believe that this war will be won by eradicating what they believe is sexual sin, and that means homosexuality. And that message gets translated very differently in an African context.”

14 thoughts on “Museveni vetoes Ugandan anti-gay bill after Nigeria law takes effect”

  1. i do believe its high time Africans should stand against the neo-colonialism of westerners . Uganda is an independent country i don’t why europeans would always wish to impose their nortorious behaviours over Uganda we have a right to choose what is suitable for our country. and i urge president Museveni to stand firm against homesexuality. for God and my country

  2. Uganda is the chosen country like Israel so i believe we can stand and support ourselves in any way because we are an independent country and we do have right to chose the best of our generations and all cultures believe marriage was meant for the opposite sex not single sex.

  3. homosexuality is a sin and its funny how the west is pushing it so hard,,, without naming the dangers, Africa is already struggling with AIDS/HIV homosexuality will increase its rates too 100, men wearing pampers and many more,,,,, no nonono this aint right, just not right and sinful.

  4. Thank GOD for our president indeed those white there after our land thing else.please let them know that Uganda is the country which fears God that all.

  5. Mr Museveni, you no longer have support politically. But if voting for you in 2016 is the price I have to pay in order for you to sign this bill, I will gladly do it.

  6. He is refusing to approve the bill because he seems to be in support of the act or he fears that the bill will affect one of his closest relatives who practices homosexuality! If not, then he fears Mr. Amama Temangalo who has stood openly to oppose the bill since he is one of them! REMEMBER THAT GOD PUT YOU THERE FOR A PURPOSE AND YOU WILL NOT ESCAPE HIS PUNISHMENT WHEN THE TIME IS RIPE.

  7. Did this really require a whole head of state to enact into law? Even an Lc1 Chairman would have signed it into law.This is abusing our President.Its such a shameful act that it shldnt hv even been discussed in our Parliament.They shld hv just rounded up all homosexuals at night and thrown them into River Nile for our more honourable and profitable crocodiles to feast on as they are more useful at least they attract tourists and earn the country the much needed foreign currency..

  8. My community and many more in Uganda, consider homosexuality as a psychological disorder, not even animals, however low there inteligence, do it because it is totally not natural. Secondly, Biblically, Sodom and Gomora where burnt by God because of the same act. How then can Uganda, being a God fearing country and many more African states bow down to western powers to agree to legalise Homosexuality?
    Are the loans and grants just to put developing state under control of the developed? Or we have the rights to inact laws which favor our traditional lifestyles as long as it is it is of public interest?

  9. kkk I can’t believe how someone lobbying to fuck someone his own anus that is totally abnormal and unacceptable acting in Africa by religionly and culture

  10. People who step out to support homosexuality and lesbianism, have the following in common.
    – they are against the natural law of marriage and reproduction
    – they have put God aside in their reasoning
    – they pretend to forget how they came to this world.
    All they are doing is perversion, GOD FORBID.

    As a pastor, I strongly condemn this act.

  11. That’s abnormal western countries want to force us into slavery again they didn’t get enough, they want our indigenous people to be wiped out so that they come and take over- a marriage where there is no procreation is not marriage- lets them leave their loans because they are the same people who come and work as expatriates and take back all that they borrowed on our behalf in form of heavy allowance and high wages and tax free businesses- they must stop museveni keep the fire burning our cultures are still solid
    For God and our better country!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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