Ugandan President refuses to sign anti-LGBTQ+ bill until strengthened

The Ugandan President is not opposed to the punishments proposed in the anti-LGBTQ+ bill but wants MPs to strengthen the legislation.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni , who has refused to sign an anti-LGBTQ+ bill, speaking to a microphone at an event.
Image: Via Twitter - @AfricaFactsZone

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has refused to sign into law a bill that was dubbed the world’s harshest anti-LGBTQ+ legislation because he intends to send it back to parliament for “strengthening”.

The decision was announced late on Thursday, April 20, after Museveni discussed the matter at a meeting with lawmakers from the country’s leading party. According to chief whip Denis Hamson Obua, the Ugandan President agreed in principle to sign the anti-LGBTQ+ bill into law. However, he added, “Before that is done we also agree that the bill will be returned in order to facilitate the reinforcement and the strengthening of some provisions in line with our best practices”.

The 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Bill was passed by the Ugandan parliament on March 21 and, if made law, it will further criminalise LGBTQ+ people, imposing the death penalty for so-called “aggravated homosexuality”. The bill is considered the world’s harshest law targeting the LGBTQ+ community, in a country where same-sex relations are already illegal under a colonial-era penal code retained after independence.

The bill has been condemned by the international community and even by Ugandan politicians, who claim that “it contains provisions that are unconstitutional” and “criminalises individuals instead of conduct that contravenes all known legal norms”.

This is part of the reason why the Ugandan President has decided to temporarily refrain from signing it into law and send it back to parliament “with proposals for its improvement”. A spokesperson for the presidency, Sandor Walusimbi, clarified that Museveni is not opposed to the punishments that the bill proposed, but that he was concerned with “the issue of rehabilitation”.

“[Museveni] told the members that he had no objections to the punishments but on the issue of rehabilitation of the persons who have in the past been engaged in homosexuality but would like to live normal lives again,” Walusimbi said on Twitter. “It was agreed that the bill goes back to parliament for the issues of rehabilitation to be looked at before he can sign it into law”.


Earlier this week, a group of leading global scientists and academics penned an open letter to the Ugandan President, urging him to veto the anti-LGBTQ+ bill, stating, “homosexuality is a normal and natural variation of human sexuality”. The letter came after Museveni called on scientists to establish whether homosexuality was natural or whether queer people were “deviations from normal”.

Their reply stated that “The science on this subject is crystal clear and we call on you [Museveni] in the strongest possible terms to veto the bill in the name of science”. Glenda Gray, President of the South African Medical Research Council, added: “Being gay is natural and normal, wherever it occurs across the world.”

“Sexual orientation knows no borders. Despite the rhetoric, homosexuality is not a pernicious western import,” Gray said. “If anything, it’s state-sponsored homophobia that’s un-African and against the principles of ubuntu [humanity toward others], not homosexuality.”

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