Last edited: November 07, 2003

Ugandan President Orders Arrest of Gays

Reuters, September 28, 1999

By Paul Busharizi

KAMPALA (Reuters) — Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has ordered the arrest of homosexuals for carrying out "abominable acts," local newspapers said on Tuesday.

"I have told the CID (Criminal Investigations Department) to look for homosexuals, lock them up and charge them," the state-owned newspaper New Vision quoted him as saying on Monday at the opening of a meeting on reproductive health.

Museveni said his upbringing and the Bible told him homosexuality was wrong, the paper reported.

God created Adam and Eve," he said. "I did not see God creating man and man."

Officials were not immediately available to comment on the reports.

Museveni’s remarks followed the widely reported marriage of two gay men in a suburb of Kampala two weeks ago. The wedding was followed by a party in a restaurant where witnesses said men openly kissed and fondled each other.

According to Ugandan law, homosexuals can be charged under the unnatural offences clause of the penal code which forbids gaining "carnal knowledge of another against the order or nature." Conviction can be punished with life imprisonment.

Ugandan human rights activists have only just begun to take the issue seriously.

"We have been ignoring it but since it is gaining prominence we shall have to come out with a common position," James Otto, a lawyer and member of the Human Rights Network told Reuters.

There have been some efforts to promote gay rights in the Ugandan press recently.

A letter in the New Vision on Tuesday questioned the paper’s homophobic stance and the laws against homosexuality.

"In your prejudiced view you never seem to think that homosexuality could be natural," an anonymous writer said.

"Without the necessary scientific evidence it is doubtful that you can say it is against the order of nature."

The writer ended by asking whether the police would arrest a couple having oral sex or using a condom "as this can be interpreted as carnal knowledge against the order of nature."

Homosexuality is illegal or taboo in many African countries and few gay people feel able to be open about their sexuality.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe once described homosexuals as "lower than dogs."

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