Ugandan President Puts Anti-Gay law on Hold to Seek Scientific Advice


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President Yoweri Museveni has put a bill imposing strict penalties for
homosexuality on hold to give scientists a chance to prove that homosexuality
could be triggered by genes and is not a “lifestyle choice”.
is taboo in African countries and illegal in 37. Few Africans are openly gay,
as they fear imprisonment, violence and loss of their jobs.
United States warned that signing the bill into law would complicate its
relationship with Uganda, a regional ally in the fight against the spread of
radical Islamists in Somalia to whom it gives more than $400 million in aid
every year.
dismissed the U.S. threat, but said in a statement dated Feb. 18 and seen by
Reuters on Friday that he would not sign the proposed law until after hearing
from scientists.
I want them to clarify is whether a combination of genes can cause anybody to
be a homosexual,” Museveni said in the statement. “Then my task will
be finished and I will sign the bill.”
said local scientists would carry out the study but he invited U.S. scientists
to help. It was unclear how long the inquiry would last.
spokesman, Tamale Mirundi, told Reuters on Friday the bill would be on hold for
now “until more conclusive research is done, and that’s what the president
is saying in that letter.”
The bill,
which was introduced in 2009, initially proposed a death sentence for
homosexual acts, but was amended to prescribe jail terms including life in jail
for what it called aggravated homosexuality.
category includes gay sex with a minor, where the victim is infected with HIV
and where the victim is vulnerable, such as a disabled person.
last month said he would shelve the bill, which has drawn fire from Western
donors and human rights groups.
But on
Feb. 14, he told legislators from his ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM)
party that he planned to sign the law after receiving an opinion from a group
of Ugandan scientists that homosexuality was a lifestyle choice that had no
connection to genes.
president is trying to please a conservative local constituency vehemently
opposed to homosexuality while at the same time avoiding alienating Western aid
may have been under pressure to sign the bill after his party backed him as the
flag bearer in the 2016 presidential elections, analysts said.
could not deny the wish of the MPs who had just given him what he wanted,”
political analyst Peter Mwesige, who heads the Africa Centre for Media
Excellence, said.

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