The Ugandan president asked parliamentarians to “reconsider” a controversial anti-LGBT+ law in a letter read out Wednesday in parliament, urging them to keep the criminalization of same-sex sexual relations but not of “being homosexual.
The bill, which was passed on March 21 and provides for stiff penalties for those involved in same-sex relationships, has sparked outrage from human rights organizations and Western governments, which have threatened sanctions.
“I am sending the bill back to parliament for reconsideration,” wrote Yoweri Museveni, saying that “certain provisions must be reconsidered and reviewed” in a letter read by the deputy speaker of parliament, Thomas Tayebwa, to the elected representatives gathered in session.
The head of state, who himself regularly describes homosexuality as “deviance”, asked the elected representatives to “make a distinction between being homosexual and engaging in homosexual acts”.
“It is clear that our society does not accept homosexual conduct or acts, so the proposed law must be clear so that what is criminalized is not the state of a person with a deviant propensity but rather the acts of a person acting on or promoting that basis,” he writes.
“The bill should be revised to include a provision that clearly states…that a person who is presumed or suspected to be homosexual and who has not committed a sexual act with another person of the same sex is not committing an act of offense,” he continues.
– “Discriminatory text” –
No mention is made of the penalties listed in the law. According to gay advocates, the original text provides that anyone who engages in homosexual activities is liable to life imprisonment and, in the case of a repeat offence, the death penalty.
The death penalty has been included in Ugandan law and has not been applied for years.
Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and so-called “unnatural” relationships have been punishable by life imprisonment since a law dating back to British colonization.
Mr. Museveni is also asking parliamentarians to review the “duty to report acts of homosexuality” section, which he says “presents constitutional challenges and could be a source of conflict in society.
The law should also facilitate the “rehabilitation” of homosexuals who come “seeking help,” he said.
Last week, government lawyers and ruling party parliamentarians asked the president to reconsider the law.
Since the law was passed, the UN, Amnesty International, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the EU have urged President Museveni not to enact the law.
The White House has warned Uganda of potential economic “consequences. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, denounced the text as “discriminatory – probably the worst of its kind in the world.
In a resolution on April 20, MEPs deplored “President Museveni’s contribution to the rhetoric of hatred towards LGBT+ people”, adding that “relations between the EU and Uganda will be threatened if the President enacts the bill”.
Homophobia is widespread in Uganda, as it is across East Africa.
While there have been no prosecutions for homosexual acts in recent years, harassment and intimidation are a daily occurrence for homosexuals in Uganda, where an evangelical Christianity has developed that is particularly vehement against the LGBT movement.