The Ugandan President has signed into law a bill that criminalises homosexuality.
Last month, Yoweri Museveni refused to sign the bill, describing homosexuals as "sick" people who needed help, not imprisonment – appearing to bow to pressure from western governments.
But he backtracked this month, giving approval after scientists, he said, had determined that there is no gene for homosexuality and it was merely "abnormal behaviour."
President has just signed anti-homosexuality bill. pic.twitter.com/rFW7HoqsIS
— UBC UGANDA (@ubctvuganda) February 24, 2014
"It was learned and could be unlearned," he said.
The new law will punish people convicted of having gay sex with jail terms up to life, according to drafts of the legislation. It also makes it a crime not to report gay people - effectively making it impossible to live as openly gay in Uganda.
William Hague today slammed the bill, saying it will increase persecution and discrimination of Ugandans, as well as damage Uganda’s reputation internationally.
“I am deeply saddened and disappointed that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda is to be signed into law," he said.
"The UK strongly opposes all discrimination on any grounds. We question the Bill’s compatibility with Uganda’s constitution and international treaty obligations. There can be no doubt that this Bill will increase persecution and discrimination of Ugandans, as well as damage Uganda’s reputation internationally.
“We ask the Government of Uganda to protect all its citizens and encourage tolerance, equality and respect. We will continue to press the Government of Uganda to defend human rights for all, without discrimination on any grounds.”
Rights groups worldwide have condemned the bill as draconian and "dangerous".
In a statement, Gemma Houldey, Amnesty International’s Uganda Researcher told the Huffington Post UK the "deeply offensive piece of legislation" was an "affront to the human rights of all Ugandans."
“This legislation will institutionalise hatred and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in Uganda. Its passage into law signals a very grave episode in the nation’s history," she said.
"Uganda has made important progress on human rights in recent years, including criminalising torture, but this Bill is a colossal step backwards."
— Bernard Tabaire (@btabaire) February 24, 2014
Oral sex is also bad says, President Museveni - Soon we shall a Uganda anti oral sex law.
— Dr. Frank Mugisha (@frankmugisha) February 24, 2014
Earlier, a government spokesman told Reuters news agency Museveni wanted to sign the bill in front of the international media "to demonstrate Uganda's independence in the face of Western pressure and provocation".
In a statement, Museveni had said: "Africans do not seek to impose their views on anybody. We do not want anybody to impose their views on us.
"This very debate was provoked by Western groups who come to our schools and try to recruit children into homosexuality. It is better to limit the damage rather than exacerbate it."
Shortly after the announcement, US President Barack Obama warned that enacting the bill would affect relations between the two nations. He described the proposal as an "affront and a danger to the gay community" in Uganda.
The United States and Britain are among the nation's largest donors.
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Homosexual acts are already illegal in Uganda. The new law punishes first-time offenders with 14 years in jail, and allows life imprisonment as the penalty for acts of "aggravated homosexuality".Gay rights activists have told the BBC they are now too scared to go to work, instead locking themselves in their homes.