Museveni hints at plan not to sign Sexual Offences Act

Tuesday May 11 2021
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President Museveni may not assent to Sexual Offences Act that was originally moved by Kumi Woman MP Monica Amoding (right).

By Anthony Wesaka

President Museveni has reportedly said he will not sign the newly-enacted Sexual Offences Act, 2019, into law, citing potential foreign policy implications, according to highly-placed sources.

The President’s thoughts, which come to light even before Parliament transmits the Act for his assent, follows high level discussions last week.
Senior Ugandan diplomats involved in the process reportedly informed Mr Museveni that the legislation, which, among other things, criminalises homosexuality afresh and sets 10-year jail term for offenders, was uncalled for.

“There is no local by-in of the law [Parliament did not consult the population], the President was not aware and there is no political dividend after he was re-elected [in January], making the new law an unnecessary burden for him,” a source said. 

The shuttle diplomacy coordinated by one of Uganda’s envoys to the United States reportedly followed inquiries by Washington about the renewed criminalisation of homosexuality, which US President Joe Biden’s administration has highlighted among foreign policy priorities it will promote around the world.

The Ugandan diplomat then conferred with Mr Museveni who reportedly told the diplomat to inform the American administration that he will not sign the legislation into law, prompting the US to ease gathering pressure and withhold a statement it was due to issue on the Bill.  

Ms Lindah Nabusayi, the senior presidential press secretary, on Sunday said: “I can’t confirm this development now, but let me cross-check for you.”
By criminalising homosexuality, already a crime in the Penal Code Act, Members of the lapsing 10th Parliament have returned Uganda to the 2014 situation in which the country wrestled donor attacks when President Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act into law.

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The Constitutional Court weeks later struck down the law on a technicality; that it was passed without quorum. 
When President Museveni returned from an August 2014 visit to Washington DC for the US-Africa summit, he told Uganda lawmakers that intended to revive the quashed law to “go slow” because the legislation had “foreign policy implications”.

The initial Sexual Offences Bill, 2019, sponsored by Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA), only imported offences of unnatural sex as provided in the Penal Code Act, but MPs while enacting the Bill on May 3, introduced explicit language in Clause 11 that banned anal sex and sex between the persons of same gender. 

Kumi District Woman MP Monica Amoding, who moved the original Bill in her capacity as UWOPA chairperson, told this newspaper that the legislated version contained gains and misses in amendments adopted in the “wisdom of the House (Parliament)”.

The new Act, among others, also criminalises and sets stiff penalties for sexual assault, indecent assault, cat-calling, indecent communication, sexual harassment, exploitation of detainees, sexual exploitation, unnatural offences, simple defilement, aggravated defilement, and incest.

Uganda first criminalised homosexuality and imposed life imprisonment penalty for convicts in 2014 and Mr Museveni, while signing the anti-gay Act of Parliament into law, said Ugandan scientists had convinced him that homosexuality was an act of nurture, not nature.
The law, however, strained Uganda’s relations with donors and opened up the country to condemnation by rights groups before court annulled it.

Background
Uganda first criminalised homosexuality and imposed life imprisonment penalty for convicts in 2014. The law, however, kicked up diplomatic storm, straining Uganda’s relations with donors and opened up the country to both scrutiny before court annulled it.

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