Uganda Prez Blinks, Delays New, U.S. Evangelical-Backed “Kill Gays” Law: Debate Continues

[NOTE: Given the heavy U.S.-based support for this draconian law, it behooves allies of LGBTQ folks to speak out about this, and keep pressure on U.S. and Uganda officials to oppose it.]


The Guardian

Uganda’s president refuses to sign new hardline anti-gay bill

Yoweri Museveni sends bill imposing death penalty for homosexuality back to parliament for unspecified changes

Samuel Okiror in Kampala


Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, has refused to sign into law a controversial anti-LGBTQ+ bill that imposes the death penalty for homosexuality, requesting that it be returned to parliament for reconsideration.

The decision was announced on Thursday after a meeting between the president and ruling party MPs who resolved to return the hardline bill to the national assembly “with proposals for its improvement”.

It was not yet clear whether the proposed changes would make the proposed law even tougher, although a spokesperson said the president had asked lawmakers to consider “the issue of rehabilitation”. “I totally agree with the bill, but my original problem is the psychologically disoriented person,” said Museveni, according to a statement.

Museveni has 30 days within which to either sign the infamous legislation into law, return it to parliament for revisions, or veto it and inform the Speaker of parliament. It may, however, pass into law without the president’s assent if he returns it to parliament twice.

The bill in its current form imposes capital and life-imprisonment sentences for gay sex, up to 14 years for “attempted” homosexuality, and 20 years in jail for “recruitment, promotion and funding” of same-sex “activities”.

An earlier version of the bill prompted widespread international criticism and was later nullified by Uganda’s constitutional court on procedural grounds. In Uganda, a largely conservative Christian east African country, homosexual sex is already punishable by life imprisonment.

The bill, which the UN human rights head, Volker Türk, last month described as “shocking and discriminatory”, was passed almost unanimously by 389 MPs on 21 March.

Museveni has claimed that his government is attempt to resist western efforts to “normalise” what he called “deviations”. “The western countries should stop wasting the time of humanity by trying to impose their practices on other people,” he said.

This week, a group of leading scientists and academics from Africa and across the world urged Museveni to veto the bill, saying that “homosexuality is a normal and natural variation of human sexuality”. Responding to Museveni’s call for a scientific and medical opinion on homosexuality, the authors of the letter wrote: “The science on this subject is crystal clear.”

Prof Glenda Gray, president of the South African Medical Research Council, said: “Being gay is natural and normal, wherever it occurs across the world. Sexual orientation knows no borders. Despite the rhetoric, homosexuality is not a pernicious western import.”

“If anything, it’s state-sponsored homophobia that’s un-African and against the principles of ubuntu [humanity toward others], not homosexuality,” she said.

The decision to return the bill to parliament prompted mixed reactions, with human rights campaigners calling for it to be shelved entirely.

“This is the reprieve the LGBTIQ community needed,” Clare Byarugaba, an LGBT advocate in Kampala, said in a tweet.

“If you have never had an abhorrent state-sanctioned hate bill that is a matter of life and death hanging over your head every waking morning, hold your freedom dear. The struggle continues,” she wrote.

But supporters of the bill also welcomed the move. “It’s a good step forward to include in the legislation an amnesty for those giving up sodomy voluntarily,” said pastor Martin Ssempa, one of the main backers of the bill. “And to include in the legislation a road map of rehabilitation including rehabilitation centres. Both amendments are human and legitimate,” he said.

Agnès Callamard, the secretary general of Amnesty International, said the “deeply repressive” bill should be dropped. “Instead of persecuting LGBTI people, the Ugandan authorities should protect their rights by aligning their laws with international human rights law and standards,” she said.

“Criminalising consensual same-sex conduct blatantly violates numerous human rights, including the rights to dignity, equality before the law, equal protection by the law, and non-discrimination.”

On 17 April, a court in the eastern town of Jinja denied bail to six young educators working for healthcare organisations after they were arrested and charged with “forming part of a criminal sexual network”. The Uganda police force confirmed that it conducted forced anal exams on the six individuals and tested them for HIV.

More than 110 LGBTQ+ people in Uganda reported incidents including arrests, sexual violence, evictions and public undressing to the advocacy group Sexual Minorities Uganda (Smug) in February alone. Transgender people were disproportionately affected, said the group.

4 thoughts on “Uganda Prez Blinks, Delays New, U.S. Evangelical-Backed “Kill Gays” Law: Debate Continues”

  1. This article was obviously written in Kampala, with virtually no knowledge of what is and has been going on outside the capital. And SMUG has virtually no underground knowledge of anything happening outside of Kampala. Their 110+ number of incidents is a deadly joke.

    Friends Ugandan Safe Transport, also known as FUST, since 2014, a project of Olympia Friends Meeting and with assistance from almost three dozen other Meetings, has assisted 2,952 LGBTQ people (and a few allies and children) leave Uganda. They are now scattered all over the world. We have dealt directly with 11 murders of “conductors” and others who have assisted. Of these, more than 800 are transgender (who were very much a part of Ugandan society for several hundred years.)

    Bulungi Tree Shade Friends Meeting, in Jinja and Kamuli in eastern Uganda, is the only unprogrammed welcoming and affirming Friends Meeting in east/central Africa. They used to have up to 250 people attend Meeting every Sunday, and also sponsored a Thursday evening get-together and dinner. As a Meeting, they have adopted 19 children who had been sex trafficked. Their co-clerk was transgender, until forced to flee. And perhaps a third of their membership is LGBTQ. They refuse to be part of any organization which is not openly welcoming and affirming, which means FWCC is out (imagine this happening in Belgium, and FWCC saying nothing.)

    They are not part of Uganda Yearly Meeting, which is intensely homophobic, nor part of FWCC, which refuses to even recognize their existence. They use North Pacific Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice. They refuse to be part of any organization which is not openly welcoming and affirming, which means FWCC is out.

    One worship group leader has been killed. Nine members were arrested and tortured, and then were forced to flee. Members have attempted to save people from being lynched, sometimes successfully, other times not, with some of them beaten close to death.

    In my judgment, this is the single most important thing happening in the Quaker world today. If anyone wants to be in direct contact with them, send a message to me, and I will forward it – davidalbert1717 at

    Meanwhile, funds are desperately being sought by FUST. Contributions go through Olympia Friends Meeting and are tax-deductible.

    I am not able to post the web address for FUST without it being rejected. So look up Friends Ugandan Safe Transport online – there are many, many firsthand stories.

  2. Chuck, thank you for the forum that includes these related articles and opinion. David Albert, thank you for the information about the witness and work of FUST.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.