The USA has said that it is urging Ugandan politicians to block a proposed law that would impose life imprisonments of gay people, arguing that it would set back the fight against HIV/ AIDS.
Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa told journalists that he’d urged Ugandian President Yoweri Museveni twice over the past two months “to do everything he can to stop this particular legislation.” He noted that as president, Mr Museveni has the power to veto any legislation arising from the Ugandan Parliament.
“We won’t make any threats (about withdrawing aid) but we are strongly opposed to this legislation,” Mr Carson said, a reference to Sweden who argued that international aid should be withdrawn or reduced to the country if it passes the homophobic law.
“We’re looking to President Museveni to show the same kind of leadership that he’s shown in the fight against AIDS, in the fight to protect the rights of all adults,” he said.
The law would impose the death penalty on those convicted of having gay sex with a minor or disabled person or while infected with HIV. Friends and family members of gay Ugandans who do not report them to authorities could face up to three years in prison.
People who “promote” or assist homosexuality could be jailed for seven years. The bill would also punish Ugandan citizens who have gay sex abroad.
The bill’s sponsor, David Bahati MP, has argued that it will curb HIV infections and protect the “traditional family”.
It has been subject to worldwide condemnation and since the first reports emerged in mid-October, has received widespread media attention.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told President Museveni last month of his concerns and the United Nations and the World Health Organisation have said that Uganda may lose the chance to host an important permanent Aids research organisation if the bill is passed.
This week, the European Parliament adopted a resolution to strongly condemn the bill. It called on Ugandan authorities “not to approve the bill and to review their laws to decriminalise homosexuality”.
The resolution also reminded the Ugandan government of its legally-binding obligations under international treaties as well as its inability to withdraw from ratified international human rights treaties.
Despite international pressure, Ugandan officials have been keen to stress they will not bow down to influence by foreign powers.
Many Ugandans believe homosexuality is an unnatural western import and see foreign interference as colonialism.
The bill is expected to receive strong support in Uganda’s Parliament.