Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has agreed to sign into law an anti-gay bill that will punish convicted homosexuals to life in prison.
In December last year, Uganda’s parliament passed a Draconian gay rights that not only sentences offenders to life behind bars but also makes it a crime not to report gay people.
Worried about the severity of the law, President Museveni baulked at signing it, saying that parliament did not form a quorum when he bill was passed.
Last month, President Museveni wrote to Rebecca Kadaga, the speaker of the Ugandan parliament, criticising her for passing the bill without a quorum, pointing out that this makes it illegal.
However, after a recent caucus meeting with MPs from his ruling, National Resistance Movement (NRM), President Museveni appears to have been pressurised to sign the bill into law.
Government spokesman Ofwono Opondo, confirmed that President Museveni made the decision at a conference of his governing NRM party. He added that the president based his decision on a report by medical experts who reported that homosexuality is not genetic but a social behaviour.
Two weeks ago, President Museveni said two weeks he would only sign the bill after seeking the opinion of scientists. Not wanting to attract condemnation for breaching human rights, President Museveni had made it clear that he would study the bill carefully before signing it, basing his decision on scientific evidence.
Mr Opondo added the NRM legislators, who were holding a retreat chaired by President Museveni, welcomed the decision to sign the bill into law as a measure to protect Ugandans from social deviants.
NRM spokeswoman Evelyn Anite, added that the report upon which the decision was based was prepared by more than a dozen scientists from Uganda’s health ministry.
A ministerial committee examining the issue concluded that there was no gene for homosexuality and that it is not a disease but merely an abnormal behaviour which may be learned through experiences in life.
Presidential adviser on science Dr Richard Tushemereirwe told President Museveni that homosexuality has serious public health consequences and should therefore not be tolerated.
In the past, President Museveni has described homosexuals as abnormal people who need help to change their sexual orientation. Protesting this stigmatisation, earlier this week, Ugandan gay rights campaigners held a protest in Kampala denouncing the bill.
Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda under a colonial-era law that criminalises sex acts against the order of nature. However, the new bill first tabled in 2009, with a proposed death penalty for some homosexual acts, was criticised by human rights groups and has subsequently been watered down into the current law.
Homophobia runs deep in Uganda and religious leaders have been urging the president to sign the bill, saying laws punishing same-sex sex acts will save the country’s moral fibre.
Uganda, like Nigeria and most other African nations is a fiercely homophobic country and in one instance in 2011, one gay man was publicly executed by an irate mob.