Updated: Ugandan President Defends Antigay Bill
A defiant Yoweri Museveni has responded to U.S. President Barack Obama’s criticism of Uganda’s pending Anti-Homosexuality Bill by stating that he intends to sign it into law as soon as a scientific committee has completed its work. In a letter to Obama dated 18 February—but which has just become public—Museveni, Uganda’s president, defends the bill, which would introduce life sentences for so-called “aggravated homosexuality” with minors or in cases of rape, and terms of 7 to 14 years for attempted or actual homosexual activity.
The bill was passed by Uganda’s Parliament last December, but Museveni declined to sign it until a specially appointed committee of researchers and health officials pronounced on the causes of homosexuality. The committee presented its report to Museveni and members of his ruling National Resistance Movement party on 14 February, whereupon Museveni announced through a spokesperson that he would sign the legislation.
The “unanimous conclusion” of the committee, Museveni wrote Obama, “was that homosexuality, contrary to my earlier thinking, was behavioural and not genetic.” But some members of the committee have told ScienceInsider that this is not the conclusion they came to, and that their findings do not lend support for the draconian legislation.
Museveni told Obama that he is now waiting for clarification from the committee about whether “a combination of genes can cause anybody to be homosexual.” Once he has that, Museveni wrote, “my task will be finished and I will sign the Bill.”
*Update, 24 February, 11:30 a.m.: Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has signed the antihomosexuality bill.