South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu today (23 February) pleaded with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to use the debate on the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill as a ‘catalyst’ for improvements to human rights in the country.
The 82-year-old anti-apartheid champion said improving other areas of law would provide families and children with more protection than criminalising ‘acts of love between consenting adults’.
Tutu said Museveni promised last month he would not let the Anti-Homosexuality Bill become law in Uganda and is ‘very disheartened’ to hear the African leader has now shifted his position.
Earlier this week Museveni reaffirmed his intentions to pass the legislation, and there are unconfirmed reports that Museveni has already signed the bill and is just delaying presenting it to parliament to appease international relations.
In a statement released by The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, Tutu commented on Museveni’s use of science to justify the Anti-Homosexuality Bill: ‘The history of people is littered with attempts to legislate against love or marriage across class, caste and race. But there is no scientific basis or genetic rationale for love. There is only the grace of God.’
He also said past regimes such as Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa prove there is ‘no scientific justification for prejudice and discrimination, ever’.
Tutu asked Museveni to treat Uganda’s current political debate ‘to strengthen criminal sanctions against those who commit sexual acts with children, regardless of gender or sexual orientation’.
He continued: ‘To strengthen criminal sanctions against all acts of rape and sexual violence, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
‘And, if needs be, to strengthen criminal sanctions against those involved in commercial sexual transactions – buyers and sellers – regardless of gender or sexual orientation.’
Uganda has been under intense global scrutiny since the ‘Kill the Gays bill’ was passed by parliament in December last year. Original death penalty clauses have been dropped, but those convicted under it may still face life imprisonment if Museveni signs the bill into law.
Earlier this week Museveni rebuffed US President Barack Obama’s comments that the passing of the legislation would ‘complicate’ the ‘valued relationship’ between the two countries: ‘Countries and societies should relate with each other on the basis of mutual respect and independence in decision making.
‘‘Valued relationships’ cannot be sustainably maintained by one society being subservient to another society.
‘There are a myriad acts the societies in the West do that we frown on or even detest. We, however, never comment on those acts or make them preconditions for working with the West.’
In the same statement, Museveni said the law would be reviewed if US scientists could prove the link between genetics and sexual orientation.