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Defiant Ugandan president signs tough anti-gay bill




 

ENTEBBE, Uganda, Feb 25, 2014 (AFP) - Uganda's president called homosexuals
mercenaries and prostitutes Monday as he signed off on one of the world's
toughest anti-gay laws, defying warnings from Western donors.


   Yoweri Museveni said he could not understand how one could "fail to be
attracted to all these beautiful women and be attracted to a man", and
described in lurid detail his particular revulsion to oral sex.


   "That is a really serious matter. There is something really wrong with
you," Museveni, a devout evangelical Christian who has been in power for
almost 30 years, said of gay men.


   The signing of the law came despite fierce criticism from world leaders
such as US President Barack Obama and UN chief Ban-ki Moon, who urged the
government "to protect all persons from violence and discrimination".


   Museveni was undeterred: "Homosexuals are actually mercenaries. They are
heterosexual people but because of money they say they are homosexuals. These
are prostitutes because of money," he said.


   The new law holds that repeat homosexuals should be jailed for life,
outlaws the promotion of homosexuality and requires people to denounce gays.


   "You push the mouth there, you can come back with worms and they enter your
stomach because that is a wrong address," he said of gay oral sex.
  
   - 'Sad day' -
  
   Obama has warned that ties between Kampala and Washington would be damaged.


   White House spokesman Jay Carney called the law "abhorrent" and Obama's
national security advisor Susan Rice described its initialling by Museveni as
"sad day for Uganda and the world."


   A spokesman for Moon said he "hopes that the law can be revised or repealed
at the earliest opportunity."


   The UN chief believes that life terms "could fuel prejudice as well as
encourage harassment and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender persons," a statement added.


   "It may also obstruct effective responses to HIV/AIDS."


   The bill will provide a stiff test for foreign donors, with Museveni
warning Western nations not to meddle in the central African nation's affairs,
and that he was not afraid of aid being cut.


   "Outsiders cannot dictate to us, this is our country," he said. "I advise
friends from the West not to make this an issue, because if they make it an
issue the more they will lose."


   Diplomats and rights groups had pushed for Museveni -- already been under
fire from key Western donors over alleged rampant corruption and for stifling
opposition groups and media -- to block the legislation.


   But Kampala is also a key Western ally in the region, where it is seen as a
bulwark against the spread of radical Islam and has volunteered thousands of
troops to battle Somali militants linked to Al-Qaeda.


   "If the West does not want to work with us because of homosexuals, then we
have enough space to ourselves here," Museveni added, accusing those who told
Uganda how to act were guilty of "social imperialism".


   UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned the law was
"formulated so broadly that it may lead to abuse of power and accusations
against anyone".


   Some donors were quick to punish Kampala by freezing or redirecting aid
money.


   The Netherlands froze a seven-million-euro subsidy to Uganda's legal system
arguing that "if the judiciary is to enforce such laws, we do not wish to
assist that process."


   Denmark and Norway said they would redirect around six million euros each
in government aid towards private sector initiatives, aid agencies and rights
organisations.


   The anti-gay bill cruised through parliament in December after its
architects agreed to drop a death penalty clause.
  
   - 'Legislation against love' -
  
   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."


   South African Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu said Sunday the law
recalled sinister attempts by Nazi and apartheid regimes to "legislate against
love", while Amnesty International called the bill a "horrific expansion of
state-sanctioned homophobia".


   "I am officially a criminal for being a lesbian, something I have no
control over," Uganda gay rights activist Kasha Jacqueline also wrote on
Twitter.


   Homophobia is widespread in Uganda, where American-style evangelical
Christianity is on the rise.


   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.


   In 2011, prominent Ugandan gay rights campaigner David Kato was bludgeoned
to death at his home after a newspaper splashed photos, names and addresses of
gays in Uganda on its front page along with a yellow banner reading "Hang
Them".


   Museveni 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 view
on the Internet.



 


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