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Protests and plaudits as anti-gay law is passed in Uganda

28 February 2014

AP

Reception: schoolchildren at an Evangelical rally outside the capital, Kampala, celebrate the passing of the Bill with cheering and placards

Reception: schoolchildren at an Evangelical rally outside the capital, Kampala, celebrate the passing of the Bill with cheering and placards

THE President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, signed the country's Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law on Monday, despite opposition from international governments, human-rights groups, and church leaders overseas.

President Museveni had previously indicated that he would not sign the Bill, saying that it was "wrong to punish somebody on account of being born abnormal".

But he says that he changed his mind after receiving the "unanimous conclusion" of the country's Department of Genetics, the School of Medicine, and the Ministry of Health that "homosexuality, contrary to my earlier thinking, was behavioural and not genetic. Itwas learnt and could be unlearnt."

Last week, the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, advised the President against signing. He "simply couldn't understand", he said, why a new law was needed. The existing law, imposed during British rule, had never been repealed.

"My stance is very clear: any legislation which is anti-something always worries me. We should be for things, not against something," he said at a gathering of Jewish and Christian students at Durham University.

"As far as I am concerned, I cannot understand why clergy can support a law that could lead to life imprisonment if I know that X, Y, Z are homosexual, and has got a partner, and I don't tell the government, I, too, face a court case. I'm sorry, this just does not go with my understanding of what I think religion is all about."

He could still "retain what I see as the teaching of the Church in the matter of sexual relations"; but "I don't want people locked up because they happen to be homosexual."

 

The Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Revd Stanley Ntagali, last month welcomed moves to remove the requirement to report known homosexuals to the state. "This frees our clergy and church leaders to...offer counselling, healing, and prayer for people with homosexual disorientation. The Church is a safe place for individuals who are confused about their sexuality, or struggling with sexual brokenness, to seek help and healing."

The law was condemned by the Most Revd Dr Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, who said: "There is no scientific basis or genetic rationale for love. There is only the grace of God. There is no scientific justification for prejudice and discrimination, ever. And nor is there any moral justification."

The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said that he was "deeply saddened and disappointed" by the new law. "There can be no doubt that this Bill will increase persecution and discrimination of Ugandans, as well as damage Uganda's reputation internationally," he said.

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