Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed an anti-gay bill into law on Monday, provoking international criticism and condemnation. Homosexuality is already a crime in Uganda and the new law, which was passed last December, is extraordinarily repressive. According to Al Jazeera, first time offenders receive 14 years in prison and acts of “aggravated homosexuality” are punished with life in prison.Museveni cited Western interference as a reason for the bills necessity, arguing that Western groups were attempting to push Ugandan children towards homosexuality. Al Jazeera reports: President Yoweri Museveni signed the bill at his official residence in an event witnessed by government officials, journalists and a team of Ugandan scientists whose report — which found that there is no genetic basis for homosexuality — Museveni has cited as his reason for backing the bill. "We Africans never seek to impose our view on others. If only they could let us alone," he said, referring to Western pressure not to sign the bill. Museveni said he previously thought homosexuality was merely "abnormal" sexual behavior that some people were born with — the reason he once was opposed to harsh penalties against gays. Now he said he is convinced that it is a choice made by individuals who may try to influence others. Africans are "flabbergasted" by homosexual behavior, he said. Government officials applauded after he signed the bill, which was influenced by the preachings of some conservative American evangelicals.President Obama condemned the law and has been a strong opponent of it since its introduction in 2009, as did Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who argued "there is no scientific basis or genetic rationale for love. … There is no scientific justification for prejudice and discrimination." Like the anti-gay law signed by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan last January, the law is popular in Uganda where, like most of sub-Saharan Africa, anti-gay sentiment is widespread.
Danayit Musse is a Spring 2014 editorial intern.