ENTEBBE, Feb 24 – Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed into law Monday a controversial bill that will see homosexuals jailed for life, defying international pressure and criticism.
“The president has just signed the anti-homosexuality bill,” said presidential spokeswoman Sarah Kagingo, calling it a “landmark” law.
Museveni’s signing comes despite fierce criticism outside Uganda, with US President Barack Obama saying the law was a “step backward” that would complicate ties with Kampala and that he was “deeply disappointed” in the move.
South African Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu said Sunday the law recalled sinister attempts by the Nazi and apartheid regimes to “legislate against love”.
The anti-gay bill cruised through parliament in December after its architects agreed to drop a death penalty clause, although the bill still says that repeat homosexuals should be jailed for life, outlaws the promotion of homosexuality and requires people to denounce gays.
Museveni, a key African ally of the United States and the European Union, has already been under fire from key Western donors over alleged rampant corruption, and had been under pressure from diplomats and rights groups to block the legislation.
“The president cannot be pushed by the international lobby groups… he has made it clear whatever he does will be in the interests of Uganda and not foreign interests,” presidential spokesman Tamale Mirundi told AFP.
“Uganda is a sovereign state and the decisions taken must be respected.”
The lawmaker behind the bill, David Bahati, praised the decision to sign it.
“This is the moment the world has been waiting for,” he told AFP.
“We thank our president for taking such a bold move despite pressure from a section of foreign organisations.
“The law is for the good of Uganda, the current and the future generations.”
Museveni, a devout evangelical Christian, earlier this month also signed into law anti-pornography and dress code legislation which outlaws “provocative” clothing, bans scantily clad performers from Ugandan television and closely monitors what individuals watch on the Internet.
Gay men and women in Uganda face frequent harassment and threats of violence, and rights activists have reported cases of lesbians being subjected to “corrective” rapes.