THE Primates of England and Wales have written to political and church leaders in Uganda after MPs in the East African country voted for a new anti-homosexuality law that includes punishments of life imprisonment and the death penalty.
On Tuesday of last week, legislators in Uganda voted in favour of the Bill, which will become law if approved by the country’s President, Yoweri Museveni.
On Thursday of last week, Lambeth Palace confirmed that the Archbishop of Canterbury would be writing to President Museveni. The previous day, the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd Andrew John, announced that he intended to write to the Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Revd Stephen Kaziimba.
In a post on Twitter, Archbishop John described the law as “profoundly disturbing and utterly UnChristlike”.
The new law imposes the death penalty for people found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality”: a category which includes having sex with someone of the same sex who is under 18.
Gay sex between consenting adults is punishable by life imprisonment, and the new law would also criminalise the “promotion” of homosexuality.
A draft version of the Bill says that anyone who “holds out as a lesbian, gay, transgender, a queer or any other sexual or gender identity that is contrary to the binary categories of male and female” is guilty of the “offence of homosexuality”.
The “Principles of the Bill” argue that it is necessary for “protecting the cherished culture of the people of Uganda, legal, religious, and traditional family values of Ugandans against the act of sexual rights activists seeking to impose their values of sexual promiscuity”.
Of the 389 MPs who voted on the Bill, only two opposed it. One of those who did, Fox Odoi-Oywelowo, told legislators that there was no need for a new law, because homosexuality was already covered by the existing penal code.
The Bill, he said, was being “introduced during a time when anti-homosexual sentiments have been whipped up across the country, and is not based on any factual or evidential value”.
President Museveni has yet to ratify the Bill, but, in 2014, he approved a similar anti-homosexuality law, which was later quashed by Uganda’s constitutional court on a technicality.
In an address to parliament on 16 March, President Museveni said: “The Western countries should stop wasting the time of humanity by trying to impose their practices on other people.” And, in a television interview earlier in the month, he blamed Western countries for “provoking all this”.
In a statement after the Bill was passed by MPs, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, urged President Museveni to veto it. “The passing of this discriminatory Bill — probably among the worst of its kind in the world — is a deeply troubling development,” he said.
The White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, said that the United States government had “grave concerns” about the Bill.
On a visit to South Sudan at the start of February, Archbishop Welby joined Pope Francis and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Dr Iain Greenshields, in condemning attempts to criminalise homosexuality (News, 6 February).