Ugandan President Refuses To Sign Anti-LGBTQ Bill Without ‘Rehabilitation’ Amendment

Yoweri Museveni isn’t opposed to the controversial measure and remains defiant against western ‘imperialists.’

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni declined Thursday (April 20) to sign a controversial anti-LGBTQ bill into law that imposes the death penalty for some offenses, asking lawmakers to amend the measure that passed in March to include “rehabilitation,” an amnesty for those who renounce homosexuality.

Museveni met Thursday afternoon with a parliamentary caucus to discuss the bill that was widely supported among parlament members, the president’s senior press secretary Sando Walusimbi tweeted.

“The President told the members that he had no objections to the punishments but on the issue of rehabilitation of the persons who have in the past been engaged in homosexuality but would like to live normal lives again,” Walusimbi wrote. “It was agreed that the bill goes back to parliament for the issues of  rehabilitation to be looked at before he can sign it into law.

Al Jazeera reported that only two of 389 Uganda lawmakers present for voting in March opposed the bill, which also had wide support from the east African nation’s religious leaders. But it was widely condemned by human rights organizations and western governments.

“We have grave concerns with the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, AHA, by the parliament of Uganda yesterday, and increasing violence targeting LGBTQIA+ persons,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in March, according to The Hill.

“If the AHA is signed into law and enacted, it will impinge upon universal human rights, jeopardize progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, deter tourism and… damage Uganda’s international reputation.”

But Museveni has remained defiant in the face of international condemnation. His office congratulated the legislators for their efforts and having “rejected the pressure from the imperialists,” Reuters reported, noting that economic sanctions are likely to come once the law is enacted.

According to Human Rights Watch, the contents of the controversial bill reconfirms life imprisonment for same-sex relations and a 20-year sentences for "promoting" homosexuality.

“But one of the most egregious provisions – the bill calls it ‘aggravated homosexuality’ – calls for the death penalty in certain circumstances, including for ‘serial offenders,’ or for anyone having same-sex relations with a person with a disability, thereby automatically denying persons with disabilities the capacity to consent to sex,” HRW stated.

Uganda President Backing Down on Anti-Gay Bill - President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda is urging the government not to reintroduce an anti-gay bill at the current moment that a panel of judges sent back to lawmakers to revise earlier this month, AP reports. The leader says the measure can hurt the country’s economic development, as international funding has dropped and delayed due to Uganda’s anti-gay stance. (Photo: AP Photo/Rebecca Vassie)

Tutu Urges Uganda's Museveni Against Anti-Gay Bill

The European Parliament voted April 20 to condemn the bill and urged the European Union to pressure Museveni to reject the measure, France 24 reported. The resolution, which passed by a 416 to 62 vote, called on EU officials to "use all necessary diplomatic, legal and financial means to convince the president to not sign the law."

So far, Uganda has withstood international pressure over its anti-LGBTQ policies. Lawmakers there have pushed other iterations of the bill over the past 15 years, in 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2014, that were condemned by activists and western governments, according to the United Nations Commission for Human Rights.

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