In February 2014, Uganda enacted the "Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014." (1) The new Act went considerably further in regulating conduct than the antigay legislation that was already on the books in Uganda. (2) "The offence of homosexuality"--which includes the act of "touch[ing] another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality"--was made punishable by "imprisonment for life," (3) and any "attempt to commit homosexuality" was made punishable by "imprisonment for seven years." (4) The new law also criminalized the "promotion of homosexuality," including all "attempts to promote or in any way abet homosexuality and related practices," with a maximum punishment of imprisonment for seven years. (5) Same-sex marriage was made punishable by life imprisonment. (6)
David Bahati, a member of the Ugandan Parliament and the sponsor of the bill, explained that he believed that "homosexuality was a 'behaviour that can be learned and can be unlearned'" and that it is '"just bad behaviour that should not be allowed in our society.'" (7) Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said the law was needed to keep "'arrogant and careless Western groups' [from] seeking to recruit young Ugandan children into homosexuality," adding that "[t]here's now an attempt at social imperialism, to impose social values." (8) Museveni also noted, however, that he "encourage[s] the US government to help us by working with our scientists to study whether, indeed, there are people who are born homosexual." (9)
Invoking "universal human rights," President Barack Obama condemned the legislation:
[T]he United States has consistently stood for the protection of fundamental freedoms and universal human rights. We believe that people everywhere should be treated equally, with dignity and respect.... ... The Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, once law, will be more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda. It will also be a step backward for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on Uganda's commitment to protecting the human rights of its people. It also will mark a serious setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice and equal rights. As we have conveyed to President Museveni, enacting this legislation will complicate our valued relationship with Uganda. At a time when, tragically, we are seeing an increase in reports of violence and harassment targeting members of the LGBT community from Russia to Nigeria, I salute all...