The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) has condemned a new law approved on Monday in Uganda, which will allow those convicted of homosexuality to be imprisoned for life.
At a public ceremony in Entebbe, President Yoweri Museveni, a devout evangelical Christian, formally approved the anti-homosexuality act, which also outlaws the promotion of homosexuality and requires citizens to denounce to the police anyone suspected of being gay.
He said: "No study has shown you can be homosexual by nature. That's why I have agreed to sign the bill...Outsiders cannot dictate to us. This is our country. I advise friends from the west not to make this an issue, because if they make it an issue the more they will lose. If the west does not want to work with us because of homosexuals, then we have enough space to ourselves here."
There was applause during the press conference. Uganda minister for ethis and intergity, Simon Lokodo, said: "I feel very fulfilled, very elated, because at last my head of state has pronounced it on behalf of the entire nation, Uganda, that this is a bill that was worth putting in place."
David Bahati, the MP who introduced the bill, added: "This is a victory for the family of Uganda, a victory for the future of our children…"
The US announced on Monday night that it would begin an internal review of its relationship with Uganda's government, including assistance programmes. President Obama had warned Museveni that ties between Kampala and Washington would be damaged if the bill was passed.
British foreign secretary, William Hague, said: "I am deeply saddened and disappointed that the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda has been signed into law. The UK strongly opposes all discrimination on any grounds." He said there was no doubt the law would increase persecution and discrimination in Uganda and damage the country's reputation overseas... We ask the government of Uganda to protect all its citizens and encourage tolerance, equality and respect."
Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill was passed through parliament in December after a death penalty clause was dropped. The legislation requires those found guilty of repeat homosexuality to be jailed for life.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu said at the weekend that the law recalled attempts by the Nazi and apartheid regimes to "legislate against love".
Homophobia, which is supported by many US-funded evangelical Christians, has become more virulent in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. In 2011, a prominent Ugandan gay rights campaigner, David Kato, was bludgeoned to death at his home after a newspaper published photos, names and addresses of gay people in Uganda on its front page along with a headline reading: 'Hang Them'.
A national tabloid newspaper in Uganda on Tuesday published a list of more than 60 people it said were homosexuals, raising fears of a new witch-hunt. Under the headline 'Exposed!', the Red Pepper’s front page story promised to name 'Uganda’s 200 top homos' in a move likely to inflame an already tense situation for gay people in the country. In fact, 61 were listed on inside pages. They included a handful of openly gay Ugandans, a popular hip-hop star and a Catholic priest.
President Museveni has also signed into law dress code legislation that outlaws "provocative" clothing, bans scantily-clad performers from appearing on Ugandan television and closely monitors what individuals view on the internet.
In a statement today CAFOD said: “Every human person has a fundamental dignity, as created by God, and each person is precious in God’s eyes. CAFOD therefore opposes all forms of discrimination, whether based on race, religion, gender or sexuality.
"As was made clear by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in their 1986 letter to Bishops all over the world: ‘It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.’.”
A spokesperson said parts of Ugandan society was already very hostile to homosexuality and she feared the new law will lead to increased violent attacks on people who are gay, or even suspected of being gay.
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