Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni on Thursday described homosexual people as “deviants” and called for an investigation into homosexuality as lawmakers in the conservative East African nation prepare to vote on an anti-LGBT bill.
The bill, which was introduced earlier this month, proposes harsh new penalties for same-sex relationships in a country where homosexuality is already illegal, prompting criticism from human rights organisations.
Museveni, who has ruled Uganda since 1986, called gay people deviants in a state of the nation address before lawmakers, as MPs pressed him to comment on the new legislation.
“Homosexuals are deviants from the norm. Why? Is it a result of nature or nurture?
“These questions must be addressed”, the 78-year-old explained.
“On that, we need a medical opinion. We will go over it thoroughly.”
Anyone who engages in a same-sex activity or identifies as LGBTQ could face up to ten years in prison under the proposed law.
The bill is being introduced as conspiracy theories accuse shadowy international forces of promoting homosexuality gain traction on Ugandan social media.
“Western countries should stop wasting the time of humanity by trying to impose their practices on other people,” Museveni said in an address boycotted by all opposition legislators except one.
“Cousins and close relatives are married by Europeans and other groups.
“Marriage within one’s clan is frowned upon here.
“Should we penalize them for marrying relatives? This is not our responsibility”, he went on to say.
The bill is scheduled to be discussed next week, with a vote as soon as Tuesday.
Uganda is well-known for its intolerance of homosexuality, which is illegal under colonial-era laws, and for its strict Christian views on sexuality in general.
However, since the country’s 1962 separation from the United Kingdom, there has never been a conviction for consensual same-sex activity.
An ordinance mandating life in prison for those found engaging in gay sex was passed by Ugandan lawmakers in 2014.
The law was ultimately overturned by a court on a technicality, but not before it had sparked widespread condemnation and led to some Western countries freezing or rerouting millions of dollars in aid.
To protest human rights abuses, particularly the unlawful detention and forced disappearance of their supporters, opposition politicians abstained from Thursday’s speech.
People opposed to Museveni’s rule have been the target of several crackdowns in Uganda.
Attacks on journalists, legal troubles, charges against election monitors, internet censorship, and the silencing of opposition figures have all occurred.