How Museveni Used Junk Science to Pass Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill
Uganda’s President Museveni has indicated he will sign the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill after Uganda’s lawmakers came up with “science” to prove homosexuality is a learned behavior.
Uganda’s State House has indicated that President Museveni will sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill after initially rejecting the legislation because he is now satisfied that ministers have proved that there is no science that proves homosexuals are “born this way” and that homosexuality is a learned behavior that the state should further penalize.
Said Museveni in a statement from the State House:
“There is no scientific proof yet that people are homosexuals by genetics. It is on the strength of that I am going to sign the bill. I know we are going to have a big battle with the outside groups about this, but I will tell them what our scientists have to say.”
This comes after Museveni originally rejected the bill last year on grounds that Parliament did not have quorum, that is to say a representative number of members in attendance, on the day the bill was passed. Museveni also cited concerns that lawmakers had failed to establish a need to further criminalize homosexuality when being gay is already illegal in Uganda, saying that he would need proof that people aren’t born gay in order to support the legislation.
So, Uganda’s lawmakers scrambled to provide him with said “proof.” The Ugandan Ministry of Health has since produced a report in which it attempts to establish that there is no genetic cause for homosexuality. The report has been criticized for a number of reasons, chiefly that the evidence it cites doesn’t say what the ministers have taken it to say, and in some cases they appear to have blatantly misinterpreted research, or in fact it doesn’t exist at all, as in several cases the citations appear to lead nowhere.
Unfortunately for Museveni, this came in the same week that American scientists announced a new study that indeed finds a tentative genetic basis for homosexuality. Previous research has shown several indicators for (in particular male) homosexuality, including having several older brothers, having gay family members and more.
The new study, by researchers from Northwestern University, builds on previous research and finds that, indeed, there appear to be markers on the X chromosome that increases the likelihood of a man being gay. The researchers stressed, however, that wanting to find a gay gene is an oversimplification and a gross misunderstanding of how genetics and environmental factors work together to shape us. What the researchers could say, however, was that their study added to the mountain of evidence that homosexuality is an immutable characteristic and is not a choice.
However, Uganda’s health ministers appear to have ignored all scientific literature that didn’t give them the answer for which they were searching, and calls to review this new evidence have so far been met with silence.
Meanwhile, Uganda’s ethics minister has said that the country is tolerant of homosexuals because, well, it isn’t slaughtering them — while calling being gay an “incredible and abominable act”. Said Minister for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo to the press:
“We are tolerant. That’s what we are saying: we are not slaughtering them,” he said in the video posted to the Independent’s website. Of the estimated half a million gay Ugandans, he went on: “They can come and be helped to come out of this unfortunate situation… It’s like a drug addict. Drug addiction is not an innate situation, it is acquired. But they can be transformed and become better.”
“So we are saying anybody found committing this incredible and abominable act should be checked and isolated from society.” Concluding, he said: “If you are found practicing it, we shall take you to a cell.”
A number of world bodies have warned Uganda that if the bill is signed into law (some rumors say it may already have been signed but that has yet to be confirmed), the legislation will mean that aid-giving nations will seriously reconsider their relationship with Uganda.
Agreeing with that sentiment, and that the bill threatens America’s relationship with Uganda, President Obama is quoted as saying that “We believe that people everywhere should be treated equally, with dignity and respect, and that they should have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, no matter who they are or whom they love. That is why I am so deeply disappointed that Uganda will shortly enact legislation that would criminalize homosexuality.”
While the Anti-Homosexuality Bill may have been watered down (it no longer contains the death penalty) it remains a deeply disturbing bill. The legislation will make sexual health clinics almost incapable of helping LGBT people, will make it an offense to even know someone who is gay and not tell the police, and would act in a similar way to Russia’s gay propaganda law in chilling any form of human rights advocacy.
Not content to stop there, however, Museveni has now advocated for a change in the law that would deny bail to a number of criminal classes, including homosexuals.
There is a very real concern, then, that Uganda’s persecution of LGBT citizens has only just begun.
Photo credit: Thinkstock.