“EXPOSED!” read the front page of a Ugandan tabloid Tuesday morning, following President Yoweri Museveni’s decision a day earlier to sign a controversial anti-gay bill mandating harsh punishments for homosexuality. Red Pepper, the Ugandan newspaper, included names and some photographs of 200 citizens it says are gay, The Associated Press reported.
The tabloid's list included vocal gay activist Pepe Julian Onziema as well as a popular hip-hop star and a Catholic priest. When a similar list calling for the execution of homosexuals was published in 2011, a well-known Ugandan gay activist was killed, the AP reported.
Sex among homosexuals already was illegal in Uganda, but the new law goes further to criminalize activism related to LGBT issues, including HIV counseling. The law also makes it a crime not to report gay people, according to NPR. “Aggravated homosexuality” – which includes sex acts with a minor or while HIV positive – carries a punishment of up to life in prison, Reuters reported.
In an interview with CNN reporter Zain Verjee, Museveni explained that the law was meant to counter Western influence. "We have been disappointed for a long time by the conduct of the West, the way you conduct yourselves there," he said. "Our disappointment is now exacerbated because we are sorry to see that you live the way you live, but we keep quiet about it. Now you say, 'You must also live like us.' That's where we say no.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called Monday a “tragic day for Uganda” in response to Museveni's decision to sign the anti-gay bill, and implied in a statement that the U.S. could reduce aid to the country.
"Now that this law has been enacted, we are beginning an internal review of our relationship with the Government of Uganda to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programs, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values," Kerry said.
Onziema, one of the gay activists named in the Red Pepper story, has said that the Ugandan law – which initially included a death sentence for homosexuals in some cases – has triggered an increase in violence toward homosexuals since it was proposed in 2009. “We’ve seen our friends leave the country. We’ve seen people attempt to commit suicide,” he told The New York Times. “We’ve seen communities attempt what we call mob attacks. Now that it has become law we just expect that to increase.”
Sarah Jackson, Africa deputy regional director for Amnesty International, called the Red Pepper story “chilling.” In a public statement, Jackson said, “This confirms Amnesty’s fear that the Ugandan government’s approval of the Act would trigger a witch-hunt against people purely on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.”
On Tuesday, a petition was posted on the White House website urging the government to “repeal all monetary aid to Uganda” until the anti-gay law is repealed.
“With a history of violent attacks and killings of gay-rights activists, as well as homosexuals, Uganda has only emboldened homophobes in the country to resort to violence in order to attack and marginalize gay people and their supporters,” the petition reads.
The Netherlands, Denmark and Norway have said they will withhold or redirect financial support to Uganda in response to Museveni’s signing the anti-gay bill, reported Gay Star News, a UK-based publication. The Netherlands froze 7 million euros in funding for Uganda’s legal system, DutchNews.nl reported.
Denmark and Norway said they will redistribute millions that would have gone to the Ugandan government to human rights groups and nongovernmental groups instead.
Museveni has become the target of criticism from other African leaders as well.
“There is no place for hate, discrimination in my beloved Africa. It’s not Governments’ business to make dress code or anti-gay laws #Uganda,” tweeted Zenebu Tadesse, Ethiopia’s Minister of Women, Children and Youth Affairs, according to borkena.com.
"The history of people is littered with attempts to legislate against love or marriage across class, caste and race, " said Desmond Tutu, the retired archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, according to The Independent, a UK-based newspaper. "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."
The bill is popular in Uganda, and has been endorsed by Christian clerics and politicians, according to The Independent.
illegal in 38 African countries, according to Amnesty International.