Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has called on Members of Parliament to reconsider the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023, which promises harsh penalties against anyone engaging in same-sex activity.
In a letter read out by deputy speaker Thomas Tayebwa in parliament on Wednesday, Museveni stated that there should be a distinction made between being a homosexual and engaging in acts of homosexuality. He proposed a provision in the bill stating that a person believed, alleged, or suspected of being homosexual, who has not committed a sexual act with someone of the same sex, will not commit an offense.
“The proposed law should be clear so that what is thought to be criminalized is not the state of one having a deviant proclivity but rather the actions of one acting on that deviancy or promoting the same in whatever way,” Museveni wrote.
The bill, which has been widely criticized in the West and condemned by the European Parliament, could lead to life imprisonment for anyone engaging in same-sex activity and the death penalty for repeat offenders.
Lawyers for the government had advised Museveni to send the bill back to parliament. The president has been under pressure to reject the bill, with the White House warning of possible economic repercussions and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights describing it as “probably among the worst of its kind in the world.” Museveni’s letter also called for the rehabilitation of gay people seeking help.
Homosexuality was criminalized in Uganda under colonial laws, but since gaining independence from Britain in 1962, there has never been a conviction for consensual same-sex activity. Politicians in neighboring countries, including Kenya and Tanzania, are also cracking down on LGBTQ rights.