Ugandan president signs anti-gay bill, defying the West

Mon Feb 24, 2014 3:02pm EST
 
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By Elias Biryabarema

ENTEBBE, Uganda (Reuters) - Uganda's president signed a law imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality on Monday, defying protests from rights groups, criticism from Western donors and a U.S. warning that it will complicate relations.

The new bill strengthened existing punishments for anyone caught having gay sex, imposing jail terms of up to life for "aggravated homosexuality" - including sex with a minor or while HIV-positive.

It criminalized lesbianism for the first time and made it a crime to help individuals engage in homosexual acts. Gay rights activists in Uganda said they planned a legal challenge.

Ugandan officials broke into loud applause as President Yoweri Museveni put his signature to the document in front of foreign journalists at his State House outside the capital.

"There's now an attempt at social imperialism, to impose social values. We're sorry to see that you (the West) live the way you live but we keep quiet about it," he said.

The legislation exposes the wide gulf between the continent's often culturally conservative administrations and many of the foreign donor states that support them. Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh last week called homosexuals "vermin".

Western donors immediately criticised Uganda. Norway and Denmark said they were withholding or diverting aid money and Austria said it was reviewing assistance. Britain condemned the new law but did not mention aid cuts.

"I feel sick. The degrading words the president has used ... my country is in a state of insanity right now," said Ugandan gay activist Kasha Nabagesera, adding the gay community expected to challenge the bill in the courts.   Continued...

 
Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signs an anti-homosexual bill into law at the state house in Entebbe, 36 km (22 miles) south west of capital Kampala February 24, 2014. REUTERS/James Akena