Uganda’s president signs anti-gay bill, defies WestAround the World, Breaking News, Online Only, Top Highlights Monday, February 24th, 2014
Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni signed a law imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality today, defying protests from rights groups, criticism from Western donors and a U.S. warning that it will complicate relations.
Reuters reported that 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.
Secretary of State John Kerry issued the following statement on the enactment of the new law:
This is a tragic day for Uganda and for all who care about the cause of human rights. Ultimately, the only answer is repeal of this law.
The United States is deeply disappointed in the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. For the four years since the bill was introduced, we have been crystal clear that it blatantly violates human rights obligations that Uganda’s Human Rights Commission itself has recognized are enshrined in Uganda’s Constitution
Today’s signing threatens a dangerous slide backward in Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people and a serious threat to the LGBT community in Uganda.
We are also deeply concerned about the law’s potential to set back public health efforts in Uganda, including those to address HIV/AIDS, which must be conducted in a non-discriminatory manner in order to be effective.
As President Obama stated, this legislation is not just morally wrong, it complicates a valued relationship. Now that this law has been enacted, we are beginning an internal review of our relationship with the Government of Uganda to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programs, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values.
From Nigeria to Russia and Uganda, we are working globally to promote and protect the human rights of all persons. The United States will continue to stand against any efforts to marginalize, criminalize, and penalize vulnerable persons in any society.
Western countries immediately criticized Uganda. Norway and Denmark said they were withholding or diverting aid money and Austria said it was reviewing assistance. Britain, a big donor, condemned the new law but did not mention aid cuts.
Danish Trade and Development Minister Mogens Jensen said, “We cannot distance ourselves too strongly from the law and the signal that the Ugandan government now sends to not only persecuted minority groups, but to the whole world.”
President Museveni took the unusual step of signing the bill in public in an openly defiant gesture to the West.
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