Museveni returns anti-LGBTQ bill to parliament for 'strengthening'

Friday April 21 2023
Ugandan LGBTQ activist Papa De raises

Ugandan LGBTQ activist Papa De raises a fist outside the Uganda High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa on April 4, 2023 during a protest against the country’s anti-homosexuality bill. The bill was passed in a chaotic parliamentary session with many amendments. PHOTO | PHILL MAGAKOE | AFP



Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni supports a bill containing some of the world's harshest anti-LGBTQ legislation but will send it back to parliament for "strengthening", the ruling party's chief whip said.

A group of lawmakers from Museveni's National Resistance Movement (NRM) discussed the bill with the president and agreed in principle to make it law, chief whip Denis Hamson Obua said.

"Before that is done, we also agree that the bill will be returned in order to facilitate the reinforcement and the strengthening of some provisions in line with our best practices," he told a news conference after the meeting.

He did not elaborate on what about the bill required reinforcing.

Another NRM lawmaker, Kwizera Eddie Wagahungu, said before the meeting that Museveni could ask for changes to provisions that contradict existing law and thus avoid a successful court challenge.


Obua said Museveni would hold a meeting on Tuesday with parliament's legal and parliamentary affairs committee to draft the amendments.

Ugandan LGBTQ activist Frank Mugisha

Ugandan LGBTQ activist Frank Mugisha (left) poses for a photo with LGBTQ members Eric Ndawula and Bana Mwesige in Makindye suburb of Kampala in Uganda on March 30, 2023. PHOTO | ABUBAKER LUBOWA | REUTERS

Uganda bill condemned

The United States, United Nations, European Union and a long list of corporate giants have condemned the bill, which would impose the death penalty for so-called aggravated homosexuality and 20-year sentences for "promoting" homosexuality.

Among the offences defined as aggravated homosexuality is having gay sex when HIV-positive.

The bill's 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.

Museveni is a strong opponent of LGBTQ rights. Last month, he called gay people "deviations from normal".

He signed a law in 2014 that strengthened penalties for same-sex relations but has also suggested at times that homosexuality should be addressed through treatment rather than legislation.

Members of Uganda transgender and LGBTQ community

Members of the transgender and LGBTQ community hold candles as they take part in the vigil in Kampala, Uganda on November 23, 2019. PHOTO | SUMY SADRUNI | AFP

Juggling act

He faced 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 the law Museveni signed in 2014. The measure was nullified within months by a domestic court on procedural grounds.

Ugandan men hold a rainbow flag

Ugandan men hold a rainbow flag during a campaign to end LGBT. Ugandan lawmakers on March 9, 2023 introduced legislation to parliament that proposes tough new penalties for same-sex relations in a country. PHOTO | ISAAC KASAMANI | AFP

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.