Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni on Thursday described gay people as “deviants” and called for an investigation into homosexuality as lawmakers in the conservative East African nation prepare to vote on an anti-LGBT bill.
The bill, which was submitted earlier this month, offers harsh new punishments for same-sex relationships in a country where homosexuality is already prohibited, prompting outrage from human rights organizations.
Museveni, who has ruled Uganda since 1986, termed gay people deviants in a state of the nation address before lawmakers, as MPs pressed him to remark on the new laws.
“We need a medical opinion on that. We shall discuss it thoroughly.”
Under the proposed law, anyone who engages in same-sex activity or who identifies as LGBTQ could face up to 10 years’ imprisonment.
The bill comes as conspiracy theories accusing shadowy international forces of promoting homosexuality gain traction on social media in Uganda.
“Western countries should stop wasting the time of humanity by trying to impose their practices on other people,” Museveni said in an address boycotted by all but one opposition legislator.
“Europeans and other groups marry cousins and near relatives. Here, marrying in one’s clan is taboo. Should we impose sanctions on them for marrying relatives? This is not our job,” he added.
The bill is due to be discussed next week, with a vote possible as early as Tuesday.
Uganda is well-known for its intolerance of homosexuality, which is illegal under colonial-era legislation, and for its conservative Christian views on sexuality in general.
Nonetheless, there has never been a conviction for consenting same-sex activity since Britain’s independence in 1962.
Ugandan parliament enacted a bill in 2014 that called for life in jail for anyone caught having gay s.ex.
The order was ultimately overturned on a technicality by a court, but it had already provoked international outrage, with numerous Western countries halting or redirecting millions of dollars in government assistance as a result.
Opposition politicians abstained from Thursday’s address in order to protest human rights violations, including the illegal incarceration and disappearance of their followers.
Uganda has seen a wave of crackdowns on opponents of Museveni’s rule.
Journalists have been attacked, lawyers have been imprisoned, election monitors have been prosecuted, the internet has been shut down, and opposition leaders have been silenced.