Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was Thursday scheduled to meet lawmakers from his party to discuss a strict anti-LGBTQ bill ahead of a deadline to sign it, veto it or send it back to parliament for revisions.
Human rights activists and the US government say the bill is among the harshest pieces of legislation penalising sexual minorities anywhere in the world. The UN, EU and a long list of corporate giants have condemned it.
It would impose the death penalty for so-called aggravated homosexuality, which includes having gay sex when HIV-positive and 20-year sentences for ‘promoting’ homosexuality.
Its passage last month with near unanimous support in parliament has already triggered a wave of arrests, evictions and mob attacks against LGBTQ Ugandans, members of the community say.
By law, Museveni has 30 days from when Ugandan parliament sent him the bill to weigh in. The bill was passed on March 21, but it is not clear when it was transmitted to Museveni.
His meeting with lawmakers from his National Resistance Movement party was scheduled to begin at 2pm (1100 GMT) at the presidential palace.
Museveni, a strong opponent of LGBTQ rights who last month called gay people ‘deviations from normal’, has not indicated what he plans to do.
He signed a law in 2014 that stiffened penalties for same-sex relations but has also suggested at times that homosexuality should be addressed through treatment rather than legislation.
He faces a possible juggling act trying to keep lawmakers happy over legislation that has broad popular support while not antagonising foreign donors who provide billions of dollars in aid each year.
Western governments suspended aid, imposed visa restrictions and curtailed security cooperation in response to a law Museveni signed in 2014 that stiffened penalties for same-sex relations.
That law was nullified within months by a domestic court on procedural grounds.
Same-sex relations are already illegal in Uganda as they are in more than 30 African countries, but proponents of the new bill said stronger legislation was needed to combat the threat homosexuality presents to traditional family values.
Lawmakers in neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania have recently called for similar measures in their countries.
A coalition of international companies including Google, criticised the legislation last month, warning it would put those with operations in Uganda in an impossible position and hurt the country's economy.