Tutu disheartened Uganda leader breaks 'word', signs anti-gay law

(Photo: REUTERS / Tiksa Negeri)Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni arrives for the opening ceremony of the 22nd Ordinary Session of the African Union summit in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, January 30, 2014.

A last-minutes plea by Desmond Tutu to Uganda's President not to sign his country's Anti-Homosexuality bill, with harsh penalties the Nobel Peace Prize laureate likened to those meted out in Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa, has fallen on deaf ears.

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni on Monday signed into law the bill that toughens existing penalties for gay people and criminalises those who do not report them.

Tutu said in a statement that when he and Museveni spoke in January the Ugandan leader, "he gave his word" that he would not let the Anti-Homosexuality Bill become law in Uganda.

"I was therefore very disheartened to hear last week that President Museveni was re-considering his position," said the former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town in a statemen t released by his foundation.

First time offenders of the new law face 14 years in jail, and it allows life imprisonment for those found guilty of "aggravated homosexuality.

The law, which covers lesbians for the first time, makes it a crime not to report gay people.

The "promotion" and even the "recognition" of homosexual relations "through or with the support of any government entity in Uganda or any other non-governmental organisation inside or outside the country" is penalized.

"The history of people is littered with attempts to legislate against love or marriage across class, caste and race," said Tutu.

"But there is no scientific basis or genetic rationale for love... There is no scientific justification for prejudice and discrimination, ever. And nor is there any moral justification.

"Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa, among others, attest to these facts."

The BBC quoted a government spokesperson as saying that Museveni wanted to assert Uganda's "independence in the face of Western pressure."

"In South Africa, apartheid police used to rush into bedrooms where whites were suspected of making love to blacks," Tutu said in his statement. "It was demeaning to those whose 'crime' was to love each other, it was demeaning to the policemen - and it was a blot on our entire society."

The Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill had originally had death penalty clauses and was passed by the East African country's parliament in December.

The death penalty proposal was dropped in favour of life in prison. The bill had been waiting the signature of the President before becoming law.

"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.

"Human beings are very diverse. Some have dark brown skins while others are beige, olive or pink. Some have big noses, some are very tall, some are Christian, some speak Swahili, some are financially secure, some are lesbian, some have specially evolved to survive in cold climates.

"Yet we are members of one family, the human family, God's family; All of us: Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Atheist, African, Asian, European... all. An inter-connected global family in an increasingly inter-connected world," said Tutu.

Copyright © 2013 Ecumenical News